The Price Is Right – right at $0.99

This is a question that tortured me in the days prior to release of Shizzle, Inc – how to price it? I’ve read numerous blogs on the subject and shifted through the bestseller lists – prices were all over the place. Several blogs insisted that pricing your ebook too low would devalue it in the eyes of readers. Surely, that made sense, considering how expensive are all the famous authors’ Kindle editions – often just a few dollars cheaper than paper copies.

One blog in particular stuck with me, with the author insisting that pricing his (now bestselling) novel at $3.99 was the best idea he’d ever had. It stuck with me so much, that I’d released Shizzle, Inc at $3.99. I sold about a dozen copies, enough to get me on a Top 100 list in Humor. I was so ecstatic about it that I made it free for a weekend. Well over a hundred downloads. How exciting!

Then the sales dried up.

I then decided to lower the price to $2.99. No impact on the sales whatsoever.

I did a paid promo with eReader News at $0.99. Over 60 downloads! Woo-hoo! When I put it back at $2.99, there were a couple of purchases on that day.

Then – silence. Like, dead silence, with a week at a time with NO SALES.

I then did another promo, the disappointing one with Bargain Booksy, and in my malaise, sorta didn’t get to put it back to $2.99. It’s like I just could not face the Amazon page.

To my surprise, the sales did not stop, like all the previous times after giveaways. They kept on drip-drip-dripping in at a rate of 1-2 books per day. When you look at the “Units ordered” chart, the impact of the lower price is quite obvious:

Units ordered

On the left you can see the peak after the eReader News promo. You can then see that I had one sale (at $2.99) in the two weeks that followed. The bump up of 10 sales on 31 October is due to Bargain Booksy promo, and the slow but steady sales after that are due to my usual social media promos (I am now twitting 3 quotes per day), this blog, and the price being $0.99.

Of, course, the royalties of 35% on the $0.99 sales are nothing to write home about, but at this point it’s all about getting readers and getting motivation to keep on writing. So what that I came to this realization via the procrastination path? It’s still research…Therefore, here is my very strong opinion, based on a sample of one published book:

First-time self-published authors should price their ebooks at $0.99.

Feel free to rip into this with your own strong opinions 🙂

135 Comments

Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

135 responses to “The Price Is Right – right at $0.99

  1. I agree with you. Hugh Howey is a great example of the $0.99 strategy working. Just make sure you’re ready with more books soon after….

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s the hard part 🙂 I’m stuck at 17K words…meeting tomorrow with my manager to negotiate that 6 month leave…

      Liked by 1 person

    • As much as i hate to admit it, watching what you did with your marketing strategy really helped to expose you as an author and Ellis Shuman had a lot of books downloaded (910) on a one week, freebie. It gets you noticed in an over- saturated market i guess.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hope you come to love it 🙂 the thing is, you can’t control what thousands of authors do – the prices in this market are set by supply and demand, so I think it’s best to just learn how it works and win the game using its rules…

        Like

      • I don’t want to control the authors, I want to raise the bar so people don’t feel like they have to get sales. I think it’s a good idea to set a bottom line and 0.99 is not it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I would love for that to happen – I just don’t know how, other than getting more sales. Forming a union will not work, as you will have independents undercutting you anyway. Setting your price higher and not budging for me resulted in less royalties. I’ve had the same issue when I was acting – there are literally hundreds of hopefuls for each role, so most short independent films get free actors, who are just hoping to get credits and get noticed. This is while there’s technically an acting union and minimum rates of pay.

        Like

  2. My book, Time Trip: A Dinosaur Musical, is only available in paperback right now. It wouldn’t really work as an ebook because a) it’s a children’s book and b) the story is written as a script. I priced it somewhat high ($9.99) but I gave educators the right to photocopy pages and distribute them to students. In other words, any teacher who wants to buy this book and use it with her/his students only has to buy one copy. Of course, they’re welcome to buy more! But one will suffice.

    I’m still trying to figure out what to do with my unpublished fiction for adults. I have one novel in the editing stage that I plan to publish in paperback form, but I’m not sure about ebook. I’m still gathering information about that, so blog articles like this one are very helpful to me right now. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome! I must say, an ebook publishing is easy peasy compared to paper, you can do it yourself (I did and blogged about it).

      Like

      • I’ll go back and read about it. I did the paper book by myself. I always assumed doing an ebook was harder because of the differences between all the various e-readers.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi, Jens, yes – so far I’ve only done Amazon, but that’s majority of the market. I paid somebody $60 to format it for Smashwords, but can’t release until my current Kindle Select period expires on 4 December.

        Like

      • I didn’t find it difficult formatting my book for Create Space. Whilst waiting for the proof copy of the book, I’ve prepared a second file on MS word for an ebook version. Doing a bit of research, I think there are ways to make your ebook compatible with various e-readers but you won’t find the information readily available on the KDP site or in any of their own how-to publications.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for the encouragement – I chickened out and paid someone to format it for CreateSpace, and now regret it – just as much work to direct them what to do and then having to point out mistakes…

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s the trouble with getting other people to do things. I think there are a lot of people out there who are cashing in on the whole self-publishing thing, offering all sorts of services when they’re not necessarily qualified to do the work properly. That being said, your eBook version of Shizzle is very well edited by whoever you paid to do it. I haven’t found an error yet, which is more than I can say for many traditionally published books! Am really enjoying your novel (about three-quarters of the way through).

        Like

  3. 0.99 makes a lot of sense. We are unknown writers wanting people to take a chance. I personally would be less inclined to do so for a book priced 3.99, unless it had an extremely wow beginning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, amazing that we are conditioned to easily give that amount for a coffee, but not for a book. It’s all about the competition, and there are tons of books to choose from, so it’s all about making the choice as easy as possible.

      Like

  4. Have you tried doing a FB party about your book? I have attended two of them for different authors and it gets people talking about your book and buying it!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I wanted to price at $0.99. That was my plan all along, but Amazon wouldn’t let me. The lowest price it would allow was $2.99. I’ve been hoping that at some point it will let me price lower and keep it there.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hmm. I’ve been contemplating doing the 99-cent sale pretty soon. I recently paid for what was essentially ad time at NoiseTrade Books (a pay-what-you-want site) and while I barely even came close to making that amount back, I got a crapton of downloads and it’s still consistent with maybe 1 or 2 a day (and I’m still lingering on their top scrolling banner). This is kinda proving your point: readers like a sweet deal on new authors. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Jon – yet another marketing tool for me to try! When you advertised with NTB, was your book at $0.99?

      Like

      • I originally had it at the same price as elsewhere ($4.99), but I’ve been considering dropping it this week, actually. They let you select a “suggested tip” for whatever amount you want. The minor downside is that there tends to be a lot of free downloads and you don’t get much, but at the same time, you are getting new fans. As of last night I noticed I’d hit over 250…and that’s pretty damn good considering it’s only been available for 2 months!!

        Another nifty thing is that whoever downloads it has to log in, and the site provides you with their email so you can add it to your newsletter list if you happen to have one. [It’s legit–when the user downloads, there’s a legal note that says they’ll be added to a possible mailing list, which they can then unsubscribe from if they so choose.]

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi, Jon – which platform are you describing? And hey, 250 in 2 months is indeed very good!

        Like

      • Oops, meant to say earlier I was talking about NTB. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Totally Toya

    I totally agree w/ you. For some reason .99 books sell like hot cakes. My friend writes a book a week (mini books) and that’s her price. She’s doing well and is a book coach. How many pages is your book?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Kar

    Hey even Andy Weir starting with selling his book for $0.99 so please don’t feel like it cheapens your work. U fortunately us readers have just become spoiled..

    Liked by 1 person

    • I admit I have no experience (yet) but I feel in my gut that I disagree. If I have to pay more than that to read Stephen King, who can’t write for shit, then why should I price my ebook at under a buck? I think it does cheapen it. I am resisting this strategy, at least for now. Maybe someday I’ll change my mind, but right now I think this race to the bottom is a bad thing for content creators. Great for distributors and publishers (Apple, Amazon, et al) but bad for us.

      Like

      • Hi, John – that was pretty much the gist of the advice that I’ve read before pricing mine at $3.99. Of course, you should do your own research, but I would take small royalty over nothing at all (like the zeroes I got during the two-week drought). The price of the books is set by supply and demand factors – and there’s just a massive oversupply of self-published ebooks.

        Liked by 1 person

      • There’s an oversupply of luxury cars too, but I don’t see BMWs getting price cuts.

        Like

      • How many years of proven performance does BMW have? My statement specifically says “first-time authors”, in other words those without an established brand. Once I prove myself as a reliable provider of entertaining content, I plan to increase prices.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree with John, and if we can get Authors not to go under $2.99 and we all abide by that, we can raise our own anty. We should only sell books at 99 cents when we are doing a contest or promotion. Like the first week a book comes out. i think we should form a committee of Indie authors and set up guidelines so we don’t give our work away and then sit and wait for weeks or months because readers are spoiled. let them be spoiled at 2.99, because 99 is unheard of.
        Anyone interested in creating a board of directors for Indies? We need some consistency in how we market books, so we can get paid for our work.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry, but that’s just not going to happen – there are thousands of people publishing books, if not hundreds of thousands. This has happened with some commodities in the past, but it would have to be ruled by the government – i.e. setting a minimum wage. I would say there’s no point to angst about it, instead concentrating on using all possible avenues to get noticed, and then raise prices.

        Also, I think this wave of cheap books will subside, once people realize just how hard it is to actually make money by writing. The ones looking to make a quick buck will naturally fall off. Those who are in it for the long haul will win in the end.

        Like

    • Hi, Kar – that’s just the market, no point in raging against it, I will just swim with the waves 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ana, I couldn’t agree more with your arguments. The simple fact is supply and demand – there is an oversupply of mediocre self-published authors and there is lack of consumer demand for those authors (myself included!). Due to the massive supply, quality authors have to price their books within that system – and $0.99 is exactly what the consumer is willing to pay for untested/unproven authors.

        The problem with building a unionesque committee of Indie authors in order to set a higher price for work that might still be garbage, is that a good author can still come around and under cut the community, rightfully take their sales at a cheaper price, and run them out of business. This is classic Walmart model business and it works! So while folks might join a union to produce mediocre (or even good) work and get paid higher prices, the consumer will always go to the cheaper product when that product is untested (a new author).

        Keep up the good work Ana! I’m looking forward to seeing how your 6 months off goes 😉

        Like

  9. $0.99 does seem to be a good strategy! It sounds like Shizzle Inc has been overall successful thus far 🙂 I can’t wait to see what happens next 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  10. As a reader, a 0.99$ price on a self-pub’d eBook will actually turn my away. To me it reads that you’re not getting enough sales, therefore you are pricing it lower to try to sway people to buy. I get that it’s working for you now, but I wonder–if you HADN’T done the free-for-a-weekend thing, would sales have dried up so much? After all, those were potential buyers who instead got it for free… Just a thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Victoria – yes, that’s exactly why I’ve lowered the price, to get sales. My free weekend was in September, the chart I posted is all for paid sales (red). Like I said, this is based on a particular case study, I have no way of knowing what it would do without the free weekend. I am more interested in creating a snowball effect, for which sales, not royalties, is the key. I’m just starting in this, so would love to know what other strategies have worked for you.

      Like

      • Hi Ana,
        I tend to agree with Victoria, above. I’ve resisted dropping my price on both the paperback and Kindle versions of my book, ‘Damp Dogs & Rabbit Wee.’ I’m still selling, albeit in fits and starts with my Amazon ranking moving between @300k overall to 20k. Presently sitting at @ 100k in Kindle bestsellers and that’s with only a couple of sales this month.
        I know it’s not much – only about 136 sales overall (split 66% – 34% in favour of the physical version) but all have been a t full price.
        All I’ve done is some very casual marketing in the form of Facebook / blog / and targeting a couple of decent dog / pet based websites. One of these will carry the book later this week (The Dogvine) and another (US) has promised coverage in the next few weeks.

        I MAY consider lowering the price when my second book is ready, but right now, I’m sticking to full price. I kinda think reducing the price may get more downloads, but how many times are those doing the downloading actually reading the book? To me, it looks a bit like trying to gain FB ‘likes’ or Twitter ‘folllowers.’

        Bottom line though, is wee all do what works for us.
        Cheers
        🙂
        COLIN
        (Cee Tee)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi, Cee Tee, appreciate your perspective – I’m after more sales, as I want to get a “snowball effect” going. Time will tell if my strategy works 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I used to think the same thing about 0.99 devaluing the book, but have definitely sold more at the lower price. I can’t seem to get Amazon to take $0.99 as a price though. It adds VAT on top and pushes it up. I’m guessing that’s because I’m in the UK.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Matt – it does help to know what has worked for others. Seems that humans consistently don’t recognize 0.99 as a 1. It seems that $0.99 is basically equal to “free”, whereas $2.99 or $3.99 are equal to “several dollars, too much”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • So true, Ana. Humans have an intuitive take on prices that while not rational, is strangely consistent across the population. You are helping me come to grips with this reality, thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, Rachel. I hope you try various tactics for yourself and get what you need – high sales and high income 🙂 I’ve just started and already can say that certain myths just don’t work…

        Like

  12. Great advice and thank you for such a clear run down on your experience. If I ever come to launching my book I’ll take this information onboard for pricing.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Reblogged this on Anita Dawes & Jaye Marie and commented:
    great advice here!

    Like

  14. Great post. I’ve never self published, so I can appreciate your trials. It’s interesting to read your process. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Reblogged this on Motown Writers Network . . . Michigan Literary Network and commented:
    Interesting article for new writers and authors trying to figure out price points for their work.

    Like

  16. Ken

    I would encourage you to get your book into Createspace as soon as possible. My own experience is that I’ve sold more printed copies than e-books and the royalty is much better. Createspace has very simple templates where you can do it yourself and for those who say they haven’t figured out how to get the e-book format, they do it for free at the end your set up. Of course they have no ranking and a difficult search engine but there are still plenty of people out there who want the real thing in their hand. Perhaps those sales are friends and family, but had some success in libraries as well and social media.

    I also have found that while I had over 500 downloads during a free weekend, the $3.99 price is moving no where for the e-book. I have my own eReaders promo this weekend and we will see where that goes at .99 cents. My second book is ready and only awaiting the cover art and I will definitely start it at .99 then adjust upward at some point in the future.

    We new authors have a daunting task ahead of us. How to be ‘found’ in a sea of books on Amazon. I have run hours of random searching and have not once ran across my book in any method by ‘accident’. As an experiment I also searched for your book and couldn’t find it either without putting in either the title or your name. Hang in their as it’s a good book, and I bought it at $3.99. Rome wasn’t built in a day after all. Pretty sure it took about a week.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahahaha! Thank you ken, I needed a bit of a kick – unfortunately I paid somebody to do it for me, and the whole thing is taking too long. I will do it myself next time…Romans sure knew what they were doing…:-)

      Oh, and thank you so much for buying it at $3.99 🙂

      Like

  17. The .99 strategy is not for me, at least not yet, but I am happy you’ve determined what works for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. The only problem with being perma-$0.99 is that you make the book harder to promote through Countdown Deals or giveaways or 3rd party promoters. Most promoters want to promote a book at $0.99 only if it’s been at a higher price point for at least 3 months. That might not matter much to you at this point, since you’re more focused on getting more books out, but it’s something to keep in mind.

    Love the blog! Keep going and good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! That’s a very valid point – I will look further into it, as you’re right, they want the book “discounted”. Perhaps the strategy is to do what I did – start at $3.99 or $2.99 and then cut the price. I may have to raise the price temporarily to comply with those rules…

      Like

  19. Nancy Glynn

    I’m getting ready to launch my sequel and wondering if I should start at 99 or go for 3.99 with my first book at 2.99? I also have a prequel novella for 99, but to me, that makes sense since it’s shorter. IDK, we’ll see, but great thoughts here!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Nancy, I would probably still launch at $2.99, so that your “official” price is higher, then discount in order to advertise with those sites I’ve mentioned on my “super duper list of advertising sites”. People love a sale!

      Like

  20. Pricing at 99 cents strikes me as one idea to draw in new readers, which is important to us writers who are not well known. Maybe some customers are willing to take a risk with a new writer for 99 cents, and they might not at $2.99.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s amazing what “psychological pricing” does – people round it down, so $0.99 registers as “free”. My new strategy is to start low and then increase prices in the future, once I’ve proven myself.

      Like

  21. These kinds of decisions are what terrify me about self-publishing. It’s enough to give a person an aneurysm. I’m glad you’ve found a strategy that works for you, though. If I end up going the self-publishing route, I’m sure I”ll be hounding your site for advice. Good luck with everything!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. olivia barrington

    As a life long reader from age 5 till well I’m up there…. I’ve gotten most of my books from the library except for the ten years I joined book clubs to get them cheap and accumulated a library of my own.( all this way before e-books) I still get my books from the library and to be honest your book was the first I bought from Amazon. When I did that all the other books I downloaded were either free or $.99. I think the $.99 cents is a great way to get first time author’s books sold and out to the readers. Getting a lot of money for a book is gone since the download of e-books and Amazon. I personally won’t pay that much for a book even if I liked the first one only because the market is so flooded with so many excellent books I can read for free from the library (you can download e-books from there) or get audio or paper. And there are so many free on the internet so a new author has to ask their selves ” Do I want to get my book out there and let people read it or do I want to sell one book a month if I’m lucky? I did notice all the free books I downloaded had their 1st and 2nd books for free if they had a series going for that character which I thought was smart because if someone reads two books and gets hooked on that character and the last book leaves with a cliffhanger I’d think about maybe paying the 2 or $3.99 for that third book. Maybe. These writers had a lot of books in their series so I assume they had learn how to lure in readers by giving away the first two. Being an author now days is whole different ballgame from when I grew up. Making money at it anymore takes a skill far different from say six years ago. I’m old fashioned I like to read a real book. I really don’t care for e-books. I do paper or audio most time. But e-books have an advantage over paper, I know, as a person can download and carry around a library. Which is cool. But the feel and smell of a real book can’t be beat. I go in the library, back into the stacks and breathe deep. The smell is wonderful. The world is there on the shelves just waiting for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your perspective, Olivia. I’ve just accepted that this is the state of the market at the moment. I will be releasing a paper version in a month or so (or sooner), and I will definitely write a series. Oh, and just got semi-approval to take six months off! Things are looking up 🙂

      Like

      • olivia barrington

        I’m sure you’ll get full approval for your six months off. You then can accomplish plenty of writing. I wasn’t trying to discouraged you with the $.99 perspective just so much has changed in the way books are sold now-days that I know it isn’t fair to all of the hard work and dedication (especially a self published) author puts into writing,editing,etc. That you should have to sell your book for $.99. There are many well known authors who have quit using Amazon because they say it devalues their work and they can’t make any money from the sales of it on Amazon. It was all over the news a while back. Because I read so much I do try to save money when it comes to books. And who doesn’t like a $.99 cent deal on anything? That’s why there’s so many dollar stores over here. Is it fair to the writers? Hell no, but this is what publishing on this type of format does to the sale price of a book. Glut a market with anything and the price goes down if you want to make a sale. We are a spoiled species anymore. I think your book and others are worth a whole lot more but there are so many more authors and books to choose from so the price has went down to the basement. Good for the consumer, bad for the author unless he is someone like James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, Dean Koontz, etc. You have to make it big like this now-days to be able to live off your earnings.( the dream) Just remember all the things you have accomplished so far in your life and know in your heart you can be as big as those authors. I know you have so many different type of books in that mind of yours that you’ll accomplish this goal.You have determination!! Now finalize that leave and get to writing. Good luck!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, it’s very hard to discourage me, Olivia 🙂 No, I am very much accepting of this – sort of “ok, these are the rules of the game, how do I play?” Thank you for the encouragement – you’re right, I just have to make it really big 🙂 Six months will go a long way to giving me a boost 🙂

        Like

  23. Nancy Glynn

    Reblogged this on Nancy Glynn and commented:
    Excellent thoughts shared about the indie world!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I agree with you, Ana. I think relatively unknown, independent authors probably sell more at 0.99. I’ve had your same experience. I’m writing my third book and I’m thinking of having the first one permanently at 0.99 to persuade readers to take the ‘risk ‘ and perhaps the second and third could be within the anazon 70% royalty range. Surely if you enjoyed book one the price of a tall latte is OK for book 2! Thanks for your post and for popping into my blog:)🌹

    Liked by 2 people

  25. As usual, specific, insightful and helpful. Keep after it.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I learned so much from your post. I always love to hear about self-publishing.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Pingback: Don’t hate me cause I’m marketing! | AnaSpoke.com

  28. jrpeacock

    Perfect timing for this post (for me). I’ve been trying to figure exactly this for my first publication. Each of the series I’m developing starts with a novella. I figured I’d put those out for the cheap and hopefully be in a position to charge more on the subsequent novel length books, assuming I’ve been able to build a reader base.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Your plan sounds great, I wish I had a novella to give away – thinking of putting together 3 short stories on the protagonist’s background. If not, the plan is to make the first novel free and increase prices on the sequels (once I have them!).

      Like

  29. Pingback: Don’t hate me cause I’m marketing! | Toni Kennedy : A Writing Life

  30. I’ve been struggling with pricing for a while and wasn’t sure if $0.99 was a good way to go. I also came across some articles putting ebooks at $2.99 to $3.99 was the “best” range to not devalue your work. But you’re right; the important thing for a first-timer is to get your work in front of an audience. Thanks for this, Ana! And thank you for following my blog as well. Means a lot to me. 🙂

    Like

  31. Just purchased your book. Looking forward to reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Hi Ana! Thank you for stopping by my blog. And it’s a pleasure to meet you! 🙂 I have been reading through your two recent posts about your self-publishing experiences. Your approach looks to be working for you well…..those little steps that lead to bigger ones. And reading through all the comments between you, your readers, and fellow bloggers is one great learning session. I am taking notes for when I reach the point where I am looking to self-publish. I wish you continued success on your path. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Pingback: The Sobering Truth About Indie Publishing (And How to Deal With It) | Kelee Morris

  34. Thank you for taking the time to write this! I re-blogged hoping it will help some new authors!

    Liked by 1 person

  35. What a great resource on publishing! Thank you for your honest and open experience! I am still plugging away at my writing and am inspired! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s