Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Thursday, March 17, 2011

More Statistics on ePublishing

For those who follow the trends in publishing, you may have seen the latest statistics on the trends from our last holiday season (Dec 2010/Jan 2011) in Publishers Weekly ( ).

To summarize the article: predictions about ebook sales taking off were well-founded. Sales of e-readers during the holidays exploded, resulting in equally high sales of ebooks. Some estimates from the Association of American Publishers show that ebook sales went up almost 116% ($69.9 million in January). (Of course $1 million of that went to Amanda Hocking, but that’s another story. LOL)

Sales of mass market paperbacks, on the other hand, slipped nearly 31% lower. In fact, mass market paperbacks sold $30 million LESS than ebook sales. Sales of other “physical” books also fell.

Over the last few weeks, I know a lot of authors have seen similar information because there has been an explosion of “indie,” i.e. independent authors, publishing their backlists on the Kindle and in other epublishing arenas. For an established author, the question isn’t “should I accept the stigma of being an indie author?” but how “fast can I get my backlist shaped up and available?”.

If you’re not a NY-published (i.e. traditionally published) author, then there’s still something to consider. If you’ve been published by small press and have been unhappy with lackluster sales, and you think you might be suffering from a poor cover, uneven editing, or just a slightly too high price, you might want to consider getting your rights back and republishing the book on your own.

Are you insane?

No. I don’t think so. But then again…crazy people are the last ones to know that they’re crazy.

But the thing is this: you can re-edit your book, create (or buy) a better cover, and control the price. Looking at Konrath’s experiences with changing prices and going from $.99 to $2.99 and then back up to $.99, and the differences the various prices have on sales, well… I suggest that you may want to seriously consider this.

Small press are caught in a bit of a pickle at the moment. They have to charge more than the $2.99 price because they have to pay cover artists, editors, and generally pay for their publishing operation. An indie author doesn’t have this overhead and therefore can set whatever price their little heart desires. Astute authors will note I’m completely disregarding the fact that indie authors do have costs, i.e. overhead, in the form of computers, software, Internet connection costs, marketing, and any artistic (cover art) and editorial (hiring an editor) assistance they need. But they may have more leeway in deciding the price they wish to set because they may be paying for these things out of other pots of money.

My own experience with The Vital Principle seems to be supporting this theory. I elected to independently publish this historical mystery and while it hasn’t broken into any of the “top 100” lists yet, it is doing much better than all of my small press books. There are consistent sales. Right now, I have it priced at $.99, and we’ll see how well it continues to sell at that price.

I’d love to hear from readers and authors on their experiences and thoughts about this “brave new world” of epublishing.


Courtney Cole said...

Nice post! I have a book coming out in July from a small press and I am considering self-pubbing another one on my own here soon. I've been researching the price-point.

What do you think of that .99 pricepoint?

Amy said...

That's an interesting question. It seems like more and more indie authors are using the $.99 to sell more copies. So I see it as a "teaser" price set for a limited period of time before the author sets the standard price at $2.99. You need at least one book at the $.99 price to start attracting readers--at least that seems to be the way things are going at the moment.

Courtney Cole said...

That's exactly what I was thinking. Good to hear that your experience has kind of confirmed that. :)


gayle wigglesworth said...

Excuse me for butting in but this is a subject of interest to me. What I can't quite understand is the enthusiasm for cutting prices to sell more when you end up making less money. As an example, I have a mystery, Tea is for Terror, on sale for $3.99. So far this month I've sold 206 which would net me at 70% royalties $575.35. If I changed the price to $.99 I would only get $.35 or 35% royalites so I would have to sell 1743 books to break even. Do any of you have any statistics to show if sales would increase enough to make the change worthwhile?

This $3.99 price is already a loss leader to encourage sales in order to entice readers to buy my other five books in the series at $5.99 each. Finally after six months I'm starting to see increases in the sales of the other five books but I worry that the price difference of 99cents as compared to $5.99 might be discouraging to buyers.

I might try it but would rather hear other's experiences first.

What say you?

Amy said...

Other authors are selling sufficient quantities at the $.99 price to offset the lower royalty rate and are actually making more.

J.A. Konrath has tested this once or twice and found that he sold more copies at the $.99 than at the $2.99 (standard) price and the additional sales more than offset for the smaller royalty.

So it has been tested and seems to have been proven, at least by a few authors.

However, that does not mean that those results would translate for everyone.

I admit I'm worried because lesser known authors used to be able to set a book or two at the "teaser rate" of $.99 to build an audience and attract readers. But with established authors dumping backlists and so many authors setting the price at $.99 to attract readers, it's even harder for newer authors unless they are masters of social media.

I'm hoping this all "settles out" eventually and that we do get the $2.99 prices established as the norm so that we can use the $.99 as a special teaser rate. It's very helpful, especially for newer authors to attract an audience.

Guess we'll have to see.