Archive for May, 2011

Authors: Setting the price of eBooks. The debate.

I have followed a number of interesting author blog’s and forum discussions on the subject of pricing eBooks. Points of view seem to be fairly entrenched, leading to heated debate at times.

Some of the blogs opinions seem to be motivated by self-interest, which of course drives most of us. One blog likens the 99c price tag to monkeys feeding at a banana tree until there are none left. Another infers that anything lower than her price, or free, is generally crap. Very few of the blogs seem to discuss the opinions of purchasers of e-reading platforms, or the views of readers that are available for all to see on readers’ discussion only forums.

So how does a new author set the price of their eBooks?

Here are some of the factors that drifted through my mind.

  1. What is my work worth to me as a new author?
  2. What is the price customers are prepared to pay for unknown author with a first book?
  3. Will the price I set be cast in stone?
  4. What is happening in the market place regarding price.
  5. If I set a low price, how will potential readers’ perceive my work?
  6. What factors could change my pricing strategy?
  7. Is there an advantage to putting my work out free?


1. I think it is fair to say that authors of whatever standing would not be self-publishing, unless they thought they had a potential bestseller on their hands, or unless their book is for a niche market. But what is my work worth to me in terms of blood, sweat and tears? Everyone will be different and it will depend on many factors. The time it can take for a new author to produce a work can take considerably more time than for an experienced author. Then there is the question of the associated costs in preparing for publication. For those inexperienced, it can mean many late nights over periods of weeks, of them head scratching, to work out how to design book covers, format the publication and in self-editing and proofing a book. For those who can pay for these services then the costs are easy to identify. I came to the conclusion, that however many hours I had worked , or however much money I had spent, my book could not realistically be worth the same as a traditionally published book in terms of retail price. Whilst I had undoubtedly learned many new skill sets, I am of the opinion that these cannot match fully those skills available to the publishers professionals with any certainty and whose expertise is honed to a particular skill. Further as a new author, whilst I had a marketing plan in place, the structure could not begin to kick in until the book was published and it would not be possible to match the marketing departments efforts of traditional publishers, or fellow self-published authors’, who were ahead of me in the game. This led me to the conclusion that my price would have to be lower than a traditionally published book, but at what price point.

2. It would be foolish to think that a reader would be prepared to pay for the time it takes a new self-published author to learn the skill sets leading to publication. The readers prime concern is to purchase a product, where there is an understanding between author, publisher, reader, that the product should be of a quality that will entertain them throughout the read to a satisfactory conclusion, regardless of price. With new authors’, quality is the unknown part of the equation and therefore the readers perception of the likely quality of your work, is a serious obstacle to overcome.

3. Whatever price is set, it is not cast in stone. The facility is there at any time to increase, or decrease a retail price. However, the danger is that an author will become known for his or her price point making the decision to change pricing strategy upward difficult, but not impossible.

4. Pricing strategies have changed rapidly in the eBook market. From looking at blog posts of other more established authors who joined the eBook revolution early, there are rumblings that where they could price just under the price point of a traditionally published book and make decent sales, this  no longer seems to be the case. Some of them in the past experienced reasonable numbers of sales, helped by being carried along with the initial growth of e-reader devices; the trend to lower pricing for indie authors has now dented their sales. Last year when Amazon announced the change of their commission structures, many authors reduced, or increased their price point to the minimum $2.99 to give them the 70% commission ($2.00 royalty). Others stayed at, or reduced their prices to $0.99, which would only give them 35% commission ($0.35 royalty.) On the face of it, the $2.99 price looked to be set to be the norm, but a number of things happened. (a) Many who increased their price saw a dramatic drop in sales.(but not necessarily income.) and( b) those who chose $0.99, saw their sales take off (but not necessarily their income). The experience will not have been the same for everyone, but generally, the 0.99’s brigade seemed to win out as their books gained that all-important traction, gaining rankings, which can escalate the sales of a book. The inevitable happened and many reverted to a $0.99 price, together with the new authors joining and setting this price to gain a reader base. The current quandary is that the $0.99 price no longer has the same effect. For traditional publishers, the reverse seems to be happening, with quite a few of their new releases priced the same as their printed books. Some posts on the e-reader forums are complaining about this and feel their initial reasons to buy their device was to save money over time to get a return on their investment.

5. Looking at some reader only forum discussions regarding Indies, reveals wide opinions as to the quality they encounter and they are quite vocal about it. “You get what you pay for.” comes into conversation quite a lot, perpetuating the problem for Indies to overcome. Some say they will never buy books at $0.99 after a bad experience. If you think that you can get away with publishing an inferior product, you are deluded, as word of mouth in the forums and reviews will out you. Fortunately, many readers will purchase at this price point to give the author a chance.  From what I understand, readers will generally pay up to $4.99 for an indie book, but only after looking at every aspect of what is on offer, to include reading a sample.

Another reader’s gripe that has recently surfaced seems to be value for money regarding the length of a book on offer. Most readers think in terms of number of pages in a book and despite trying to fight the corner from the perspective that it is like trying to explain how long is a piece of string because of different book sizes and printed book formatting, they don’t buy it. The problem seems to be where someone say uploads a short story, not listing at such and however good it is, they feel cheated buying a five thousand-word story for $0.99, when they could have purchased a full book for the same price. Because of this discussion, I have now put both the word count and the approximate page count in my blurb and await Amazon making the changes. That is not to say there are not readers who appreciate the short story medium and will gladly pay for it, but not stating what your product is, runs the risk of one star reviews from others not so appreciative of the short story art.

There are many things you can do to overcome the quality question, for example, why not put you have had your book professionally edited at the beginning of your book blurb, if that is the case. For now, I have only placed this information on my copyright page, but it is something I intend to do. Maybe you could list any other credits you may have. It could be the difference between making a sale or not.

6. Indies are at the mercy of the eBook distributors. As a new industry, distributors have their own motivations for allowing other than traditionally published books into their catalogue. They are quite happy at the moment to allow indies to publish their eBooks at low prices and sometimes to offer books for free. For some readers new to buying devices, it makes the offering tempting against buying printed books when they see the low prices of eBooks. This situation will not last forever as the market matures. There is nothing for the distributors to be gained by offering books free in terms of revenue and it would be easy for them to alter commission structures, or have minimum prices to generate additional revenue when the market becomes stale. They could also alter the algorithms of their system to favor the visibility of higher priced books, or newly released books, so although now you can build your own back catalogue over time, the benefits may not be as they are now in terms of providing income. The notion that makes me shudder is if they insist on you using their editing services to have some sort of quality stamp on your work as a means of increasing their revenue, although some sort of quality stamp that you have had your work professionally edited from any source would be welcome. If it is the case that you have used an editor, or maybe won an award, then it could be one aspect of you deciding on a higher price. However, all this is looking into the crystal ball, for now all we have to work with is the current situation. I think it is worth experimenting with price. There is nothing wrong with trying a higher price first, or moving the price upward once a book gains momentum by achieving a rank.

7. Free can be a useful marketing tool, it can be used to give away short samples of your work, in the hope of convincing readers that your longer work is worth buying. In some circumstances, it can propel you into the limelight and gain you considerable downloads to build a large reader base. Before you embark on offering your work free, there are a number of factors to consider. Some people will only ever download free books and will not buy your other works. Some will download everything in sight, to the extent that they will never get round to reading it. It is the same for other price points. Many readers have a range of prices they will pay for books. The numbers seem to diminish the higher the price you set.

I can’t tell you what is the best pricing strategy for your own particular circumstances. All I hope you take away from this article is for you to see different aspects of arriving at a decision.

Good luck to all.

Following debate on my writers’ author site, I am adding this footnote.

If we go back to last year, Amazon decide it wanted to negotiate prices for books and eBooks with traditional publishers to retail at no more than $9.99. McMillan and others fought this. The result was that Mc Millan’s catalogue was pulled. At the same time, Apple introduced their own eBook platform and together with Barnes and Noble, they saw no reason to stop publishers setting their own prices. The loss of the McMillan catalogue meant that Amazon no longer had the number one best seller, other than through third parties. As the largest retailer of books, for Amazon, this situation would have given consumers a reason to buy other that the kindle platform. This year they caved in to McMillan. This is the reason customers are now complaining as new releases are coming through at prices in some cases of dearer than the paper book.

Traditional publishers see the future as flexible pricing for their products. e.g., starting at say$15.99 at release and reducing over time to $5.99. This situation gives the indie a price point to work with at between $0.99 and the magic $4.99, to remain competitive and to overcome to some extent the notion of quality to price for indie books. The problem for indies is to decide where to set their price point within this margin.

It also give the indie a price point to work toward when formatting for POD to remain competitive  and to be able to retail a paper book at $9.99. Hence, the reason I posted my free guide on how to format for POD on my site to enable you to retail a 100,000-word paper book at$9.99.

Suzanne Tyrpak, is the author of the bestselling compilation of 9 shorts, titled, “Dating my Vibrator.” The book has had outstanding success on both sides of the Atlantic on Amazon kindle, reaching the heights of two-second and one-third ranking for her short story book categories in the UK. Suzanne has kindly provided me with a flash fiction example of her work, Meditation and an article on her thoughts on writing short stories. Suzanne joins other short story writers on the dedicated ‘short story writing’, page on my blog.

I would be pleased to hear from author’s who wish to contribute to the page aimed at providing authors new to the craft the lowdown on how to craft short stories. My email address is listed on the page.

Read about it here

Link to page and scroll down

Find out what Barry Napier, the prolific short story writer and others have to say on the subject in this weeks article on my blog, on the short story writing page. There is no doubt about it, that many author’s cut their teeth on writing short stories. Many go on to make a career from writing shorts, along side writing full-length novels. You only have to look at the Amazon charts to see some of the illustrious names with short stories published, with the likes of Steven King, Agatha Christie, James Patterson and a whole lot more all contributing to the craft.

Short cut to page

How not to sell 10,000 eBooks in one month

I was taken aback, when my article, “J Carson Black sells 10,000 eBooks in April …How did she do it?”, created controversy on kindle boards, in the writers’ cafe forum. The moderator deleted a number of member’s posts. I just wonder if some of those with deleted comments should have read my previous article on, ‘The mysterious ways of Amazon and kindle forums’, as well as the kindle-board forum rules, before diving in feet first and baiting, or rising to the bait of others in full view of readers and buyers of eBooks. The original article has proved to be very successful from the support I have received with private messages from new authors considering self-publishing and the articles intended audience. J Carson Black’s honesty in revealing the reasons for her success to new authors starting out in self-publishing and featured in this week’s Creating a Buzz on my blog, is to be applauded

Some comments on the forum made me step back and think about what I said and for those who misinterpreted what I had to say, or should I say, took from the article what they chose to use as an axe to grind, I decided the turn the article on its head. Hence the title … “How not to sell 10,000 eBooks in one month.” But first let me tell you a story, because that is what I do best … It won’t win any literary prizes, as it only took me ten minutes to knock together, but maybe what it says puts the point across a little differently than the original article.

Read it here, and feel free to comment.


The Secret.

Declan took up a position as the manager of a television rental shop. He loved the notion of renting goods, which involved building a customer base, with plenty of repeat business to secure his long-term future. He set about doing what he was trained to do by Maggie, a tutor on a retail business course he attended and organised the shop accordingly. It came as a surprise, when the area manager contacted him and gave him the good news that his shop had rented more televisions in a particular month than any other shop and he asked Declan to reveal his secret. Of course he didn’t have a secret, he was just doing the job in the way he been taught and put it down to good luck. The area manager continued to press for the secret of his success, which he honestly didn’t know. The shop was full of customers that needed attention and to get him off the phone, he told him he liked to throw open the doors and play loud music to attract the customers inside to buy. It seemed to satisfy him and off he went. The rest of the day, Declan kept dwelling on the area manager’s question and he was desperate to find out the answer for his own good.

After a few days, Declan was inundated with angry calls from other managers. Apparently, a memo had been sent to all the other shops to open their doors and play loud music. With winter setting in and most of the shops located in high streets, well, you can imagine their displeasure, especially as their sales failed to increase.

The area manager moved on to new pastures and Declan was elated when he was promoted to take over the area manager duties. He set off on a tour of his new empire, full of hope.

The first shop he arrived at, he looked for the hot spot in the window as he approached in the manner of a customer passing by, to see if the display attracted his eye. There wasn’t a hot spot; it looked more like something representing his ten-year-old daughter’s redesigned bedroom after a sleepover. At the next shop, he listened into a sales person going through his routine sales pitch with a customer. His opening was to say the least, uninteresting and not thought out to grab and hold the customer’s attention. The customer gave his excuses and left. At the third shop, he was more encouraged. The window display was attractive and his eyes were drawn to the television in the hotspot. A sales person was holding the attention of a customer and was almost at the point of closing the sale, when Declan’s heart sank and he followed the customer’s eye line to the source of her apparent displeasure. She frowned, turned and left.

The reason for the customer’s displeasure was clear. The display she had glanced at, revealed a television with a picture that was rolling. Another television had a picture that was dull. Even worse, the hand written advertising caption over the television read “Bargin of the Day.” When Declan confronted the manager about the state of the goods on display and pointed to the television with the dull screen with the misspelt caption, all the manager could say was, “Well … it is a bargain price.”

With time to inspect one more shop, he crossed his fingers and headed for the location. Everything seemed to be perfect, from the hot spot to the display. There were not many customers, but the sales people seemed to be alert to their needs. As he approached the manager, all hell let loose as the manager started to argue with one of his staff in full view of the customers. The few customers that were there, made their excuses and left. Declan’s face flamed and he interrupted the argument and demanded he talk to the manager in his office. A customer, paying their account at the cashier’s desk grabbed Declan by the arm.

“He’s always arguing in front of customers, I’m thinking of taking my account elsewhere, you should sack him.”

After he reprimanded the manager for the altercation he had witnessed and made it clear that what he had heard would not be tolerated, it was down to business, Declan took out a spreadsheet of the sales figures and laid them out on the desk.

“Your shop is perfect, other than curtailing your arguing in front of customers, is there anything else you can tell me why think your sales are so poor and what you can do you increase them?”

“Competition. The other outlets in town have been going longer than my shop and have a much bigger customer base, so I can’t see how I can increase sales to their levels.”

“Have you looked at the competition and thought about what made them successful in the first place?” Declan Asked.”Maybe you could pick up some ideas. I’m not expecting overnight success, but we need to set out a plan to up the sales.”

“I’m not sure, I know some of the names, but I never get chance to leave the shop to find out what they are doing that makes them successful.”

“What are you doing with your local advertising budget?”

“I advertise in the local monthly upmarket magazines. It saves time having to prepare copy for the daily newspapers.”

“Really. Do you think people with disposable income to buy televisions are likely to be your target market for renting televisions? Then there’s the question of the frequency of the publications? I think we need to change that towards your target market in the daily newspapers.”


Declan sat in his car and made a list of his findings and the steps he would need to put in place to make things right. He knew it wouldn’t be easy and it would take time to rectify, but with determination, hard work and a will to succeed. He knew what had to be done.


Twelve months later and Declan sat at his general manager’s desk, reflecting on the attention to basic details that had gained him his success from the simple advice given by Maggie during his training. He opened his mail, surprised to see an application for a management position and a C.V. from his old area manager. He recalled the phone call when the area manager asked for his secret of his sales success and considered what would have happened if he could have given him the answers that he now knew… as simple as they were.

Declan sighed and reached out to put the application in his IN tray. He wrote out a note thanking his old area manager for writing to him, but declining his application and moved the file to his OUT tray. A moment’s hesitation and he retrieved the application, having decided he owed him the truth of the secret he had asked for and gave him details of Maggie’s training course.

“God bless you Maggie and thank you,” said Declan as he placed the application in his OUT tray and prepared for another hard day of work.


Please send editing suggestions on a post card C/O … CIA listening post, Alaska.

If you need to know what this story has to do with the price of potatoes, then we are reading from a different page. lol.

Copyright notice … This story is fictional and any inference taken that Maggie is portrayed as the author, J Conran Black, I can assure you is entirely intentional.

Creating a Buzz page, featuring J Carson Black, Simon Swift and Black Shadows and Joanne Ellis of Spoilt fame. Bücher Englisch. Declan Conner, Thriller Autor

Declan Conner is the author of Survival Instinct (The dark side of Dating.) A fast paced psychological serial killer thriller book and Lunch Break thrillers, A series of short thriller stories. Both books are now available on for kindle download at an introductory price of 0.99 Euro each. Don’t have a kindle? Did you know you can download kindle to pc FREE. Click on one of my books in the sidebar for Scroll down and follow the instructions to download Kindle to your PC, you are then free to download and buy books.