Giveaway winners, ebook pricing, and parentheses

Apparently it’s a day for J’s. The June giveaway winners are Janet for THE BOAT and Julia for BEE SEASON. Congra-julations! I’ll email you shortly for mailing addresses.

Thanks to everyone who entered.

If anyone wants to win ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis, PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White, or AS LONG AS WE BOTH SHALL LIVE by Lurlene McDaniel, hop on over to We Heart YA. Me and my crit partners have a fun and easy giveaway going there too. (Not too many entries so far, so your odds are good!)

I’m not sure if anyone is curious about this, but just in case, I thought I would update you on my ebook pricing experiment. In May, I (somewhat reluctantly) lowered the price of my ebook TWENTY-SOMEWHERE to 99 cents. My concerns were that this would show that I didn’t value my work (which I do!) or didn’t consider it to be of quality (which I do!). However, I also didn’t want to be too proud or stubborn to try something that has been successful for many writers. (Although fewer than the media would have you think.)

What I found was that I definitely sold more copies at 99 cents than I did at $2.99. However, because of the difference in royalty percentages (35% at 99 cents vs. 70% at $2.99) I would have had to sell SIX times as many copies to make the same (small) amount of money. I only sold about three times as many copies.

So. Midway through June, I decided to go back to my original price point. I figured I’d rather earn more money selling fewer copies — and entice people to actually READ my work, since anecdotal evidence suggests that many people “stock up” on “freebies and cheapies” but never actually get around to reading them.

(Case in point: I have like a dozen 99-cent-or-less titles on my Kindle. They have been sitting there for weeks, and will probably continue to do so until I find myself stranded without reading material for a long period of time.)

However, an interesting thing happened.

I use Smashwords as an intermediate to publish my ebook to Sony, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and a few other retailers. Because of the extra steps involved, price updates to those retailers could take anywhere from days to weeks. (Interestingly, my price DECREASE went through immediately, whereas my price INCREASE has yet to propagate.) So right now, my ebook sells for $2.99 everywhere except Sony, Kobo, and… Amazon?

Apparently, even though I directly control the price of my ebooks at Amazon, they do a competitive price-matching thing. And to my pleasant surprise, I as an author am not penalized for that. Because I set my price at $2.99, I get the 70% royalty rate, even though Amazon is selling my ebook for 99 cents (which technically is supposed to only get a 35% royalty rate). So it’s win-win: I get the higher royalty rate, readers get the low low price.

What doesn’t change is that I don’t know if anyone is actually READING my ebook. It got another rating or two on GoodReads, but nothing at Amazon or the other online retailers. Bummer, but oh well.

So that’s where things stand now. I would like ALL the retailers to get back to the $2.99 price point, and I may have to send some support emails to Smashwords if I don’t see that happen soon. But in the meantime, this isn’t an awful compromise, and now I know some more about playing with the pricing and royalties.

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  1. Wow, incredibly eye opening! Thank you so so very much for posting this–I’d never have known or even understood how the pricing works! You’ve made it both simple AND informative! Again, thank you!

  2. Kristan, thank you for sharing the results of your pricing experiment. I did the same experiment and also found that it really didn’t have that much of an impact on my sales.

  3. This is useful info, Kristan. And I’m ashamed to admit that even though my paper book’s about to be available on Amazon, I haven’t yet found the time or bandwidth to get the e-version going. I’ve heard using Smashwords is kind of complicated. What do you think? (That’s been my excuse for not taking care of it so far. Don’t want to deal with complicated!)

  4. That’s interesting on the price match. After reading about the 99-cent spam-filled books, I’m more concerned about that price point.

  5. That is very interesting indeed. So nice of you to figure out all of this so that I don’t have to. :)

  6. Julia

    I didn’t know about Smashword until you told me. Then, I bought AND read your book, for 99 cents. (I probably would have shelled out 2.99 and read it also.) Is there a place I might write a review?

  7. It’s really interesting seeing how your pricing experiments have been going. It’s definitely not what I would have expected.

  8. I thought authors received 70% regardless of the set price. Thanks for sharing this experiment, I’m buying a copy of your book and will read it and post a review.

  9. Jon

    How do you like working with smashwords versus amazon? I have a friend who is about to put her (non-fiction) book on both.

  10. P.I., Suzanne, Sonje –
    You’re welcome! :)

    I definitely think ebooks are a route every author should pursue. There’s a strong and growing market there, no doubt. Smashwords isn’t complicated so much as it is cumbersome (more on that below, in my response to Jon) but it’s still a decent tool to have in your toolbox.

    You know, I’ve been hearing a lot about that problem, but to be honest, I haven’t seen any of the spam books myself (as an author and as a Kindle owner/reader). I also think Amazon will quickly work to refund and filter out any books that get reported as such.

    Aw, thank you! Since you bought it at Smashwords, you are one of the few who can write a review there. IF you were so inclined, you could also copy & paste your review at any of the other sites (Amazon, B&N, GoodReads, etc.). I believe Smashwords is the only one that requires you purchase through them in order to review on their site.

    At Amazon, ebooks $2.98 or less can only get a 35% royalty rate in the US. (UNLESS your ebook is part of the new Kindle Singles program. Then you can get the higher rate at the lower price.) Amazon has different rules for different countries, and the other retailers have slightly different percentages, so my post is definitely a simplified look.

    In my limited experience, Amazon is the most pleasant to work with. Formatting your files is a bit of a pain no matter which epublisher you work with, but once that step is out of the way, the audience, customer service, and general process at Amazon can’t be beat.

    Apple is taking small steps to improve their iBooks system — and it’s the easiest/most efficient retailer in terms of changing price — but they still have a LONG way to go in learning how to sell books. Their iPublisher program (or whatever it’s called) for preparing your book is okay.

    Smashwords is the least slick of the systems, but the most versatile. One of its biggest perks is the ability to produce coupons at any time, so you can give people (like reviewers) your ebook for free, in pretty much any electronic format they want. My biggest beef with Smashwords really doesn’t have to do with anything locally hosted by/at Smashwords, but with the slowness and clunky-ness of their partner programs. A price change (or description change, or whatever) happens instantly at Smashwords, but can take days or weeks to filter through to the other retailers. It’s such a pain.

  11. Thanks for sharing your experience with the ebook pricing. Though I am not ready to go the self-pubbing route, it’s good information for future reference.

  12. This is one of the reasons why I’d rather get published the old-fashioned way. Self-publishing just seems like a ton of work. More power to you, Kristan!

  13. Are you going to continue e-publishing on your own? Just curious because it seems like such a pain in the asterisk.

  14. Jon

    Thanks for the very informational response. I’ll keep this in mind.

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