On Sales: House (Not) and Books

So I didn’t sell my house on Friday the 13th.  Between the burned cookies, the unfortuitous date, and the fact that the people who came for the first showing of the day tracked dog poo all over the house (thankfully hubs came home to shower before the Open House and had time to REDO the floors), it just wasn’t a great day.  We had one person show up, who liked the house, but they are about to have their second child and there’s just not enough room.  I confess my belief waivered halfway through the day and I probably killed some fairies or something with my morose attitude. But thank y’all for all the good vibes.  At least it didn’t rain.

So we’re halfway through May and I’m checking my sales and they are…low.  Which is not surprising.  There is always a bit of a slump in April and May before the summer rush, and I chose that, perhaps, inopportune time to try out my $2.99 experiment.   I haven’t talked about it much because I haven’t had a full month of data.  It took about 2-3 weeks for the price change to populate to all the expanded distribution channels, which meant that Amazon had it discounted all that time and I only got 70% of the actual price, not the list price (one of the caveats of that 70% bracket I was not aware of having not sold at that level before).

I can’t say I quiet know what to think about $2.99 as a price point.  My sales on Amazon have slowed…but they slowed for Devil’s Eye too, which is just 99 cents, still.  My sales on Barnes and Noble were just as good at $2.99 as they were at $1.99 and I have maintained the same rankings there as I have…pretty much for months.  I have never been as visible as I would like at Barnes and Noble, but what sales I have are very steady.  My sales on Smashwords…well on Smashwords proper they’ve always been slow, regardless of pricepoint.  Mostly Smashwords is useful to me only in their expanded distribution and in the ability to discount or give away copies for assorted purposes.

I can see the appeal of the price point from a profit standpoint.  1 copy sold makes as much as 5-6 copies at the 35% royalty rate, so even though fewer copies are sold, profits were up.  For Forsaken By Shadow total copies sold was down a whopping 62% last month.  But profits were up 45%.  With no price change Devil’s Eye was down about 36% across both, and everyone I know had a slower month in April (my theory being that everyone was too busy remembering to do their taxes to read for fun).  Overall profits were up by 3% and copies sold down by 47%.

So where does that leave me?

Heck if I know.  I had planned on releasing a new title by now, but I’m 2 months behind schedule on Red and it will probably be August before Riven is ready to be released, thus placing me missing the boon of new release during the start of the summer reading season.  Whatever, life happens, as I am always fond of saying.  It does mean I need to give some thought to what kind of summer promo I want to do for my existing titles and how I want to play with price (as I’ve been focused ENTIRELY on writing new stuff and have done ZERO promo for the last two months).

What are my conclusions on the $2.99 price point?  Well, I’m not going to make any sweeping generalizations to say that everyone should do this, that, or the other thing.  I think pricing decisions are an author’s individual purview and what works for one will not necessarily work for another.  I still feel strongly that cheap is better in the beginning.  I don’t think I would have build the platform I have without starting out at 99 cents.  For me, in the beginning it is ENTIRELY about building an audience and getting my name out to as many people as possible and putting myself into that impulse buy price point of 99 cents was a very good way for me to do that.  I have novellas not full novels out, so that’s, perhaps, a little easier for me to stomach.

But I do think that I have built enough of a following that I will be able to release the third novella in the series, Riven at $2.99.  I believe that it will do better at that price point as a new release than FBS has done as the initial book in the series.  What I really would like to do, at this point, is to set up a pricing structure that decreases with the age of the release, much like traditional does from Hardback to trade to mass market.  So I will release Riven at $2.99, raise Devil’s Eye to $1.99, and drop Forsaken By Shadow back to 99 cents as the gateway book to the series for new readers as they find me.  That just makes more sense to me.  And then I’ll have the omnibus of all three, Genesis, offered for like $3.99 or something as the deal for anybody who’s totally new to the series.

Will this mean less profit for me over the summer?  Maybe.  But it should mean getting my numbers back up, my name out more, which is still the important part for me at this stage in the game.  All of these novellas are, for me, about building the audience for the full length novels and the rest of the series.  THEY are where I expect to make a serious profit.  I can be patient for that because (as I am also often fond of saying), this is a long haul game.  And that’s my 2 cents on that.

7 thoughts on “On Sales: House (Not) and Books

  1. Timely post. I think you’re right about considering the long term effects of whatever you do now and I’m certain that exposure is worth far more than money, i.e. it makes sense to sell more cheaply initially in order to fall into the impulse buy bracket which makes people find you in the first place. Hopefully, once they’ve found you, you’ll have a loyal reader for life. You certainly do in me. Of course, I don’t really mind how much I pay for your stuff, but most people aren’t like me. They’re normal 🙂

  2. Yeah. Pricing is one of those things that every author has to decide for themselves and experiment. I actually asked a few fans what they’d be willing to pay for an e-copy before my release, and the number they gave was higher than the $3.99 I settled on for now. I’m not too concerned about widening my market until I have more titles, and I even have a novelette in the mental crock pot.

    Have you tried submitting your stories to book reviewers to help spread word-of-mouth?

    • Oh yeah, did a lot of that with Forsaken By Shadow. Not as much for Devil’s Eye just because I wanted to see what it would do on its own as a measure of what I’d built so far. Still, both have accrued a decent number (all linked to on their individual pages above).

      • 🙂 I’d seen that both had reviews; I wasn’t sure if any were ones you’d submitted for, and as I’d just gotten one of the reviews I was in the queue for, it was on my mind.

        Sorry you didn’t sell your house, but praying it will sell soon!

  3. Sorry about the house stuff. I’d have been grumpy about that too. Hope you get a good offer soon…

    It does really seem like everyone’s in a sales slump a the moment, though mine picked up a bit last week. I’ve got two priced at .99 and two at $1.49…and it amazes me that I can sell half as much at the 1.49 point and still make quite a bit more profit (5 at the higher price equals about 9 at the lower). Every little bit adds up…

    I’m going the opposite direction with my pricing – .99 cents for new releases, move the previous release up to $1.49 (novellas & erotica novelettes will stay at that price), and full novels will go up to $2.49 after that (rom. suspense didn’t do so well for me at $2.99). Novelette collections will be $2.99-$3.49…I’ll have to experiment. So I’ll have stuff priced across the board, and always something at .99 cents to draw people in.

    It’s interesting to me how on some sites (like Amz.), price seems to be more important (my .99 sell better there than the 1.49). At All Romance, genre seems more important (my 2 erotica titles are selling far better there than the rom. suspense, and I have one at each price point in each genre).

    Experimentation is all we can do though – so many factors are involved that it’s impossible to say what will work for someone else. Interesting though…

  4. Patrick Doris

    Not having written anything that sells I can not comment in an credible manner on pricing points but your business plan makes sense to me

  5. Sorry about the house. Hopefully, it’ll sell sooner rather than later.

    I can see the logic of having a low price now and then increasing the price later. It seems that if we want more people to buy our stuff, we should price them low at first. I also like your idea of giving away e-books for free. 🙂 Free stuff is a good advertising. 🙂

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