Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pricing experiment: Is $0.99 a better price for an enovel?

Over on his blog, Joe Konrath is reporting on his experiment with pricing some of his books at $0.99 instead of his usual $2.99. He’s had a lot of success doing this with The List.
I’m going to do the same thing with Dead Dwarves Don’t  Dance. Starting in March, I’ll lower the price from $2.99 to 99 cents. I want see if someone without Joe's great success can also see a big jump in rankings and sales.
I published Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance back in November for $2.99. Since then I’ve sold 390 copies and earned about $783. Here’s the monthly sales numbers chart:

The best sales rank I’ve reached is #6047, and I’ve gotten into the 40s on the Kindle Books Science Fiction High Tech rankings. Here is my ranking chart over the last 3 months:

In February, I’m selling an average of 6 copies a day at $2.99. I’m hoping this increases significantly at 99 cents.
I make about $2.00 at a cover price of $2.99. I’ll make about 35 cents on a sales price of 99 cents. That means that I have to sell 6 times as many copies to make the same in royalties.
But, royalties aren’t the main reason for this experiment. I want to see how much better in the rankings I can get, and hopefully get a lot more readers.
Stay tuned to find out how this experiment goes.


  1. Good luck, Derek. I'll be curious to see how it works for you since we have similar numbers for our debut novels, and I started shortly after you did.

    I've not managed to get into any lists on Amazon (unfortunately the fantasy sub-categories are kind of if all books are either epic fantasy or urban fantasy and that's it), even when the ranking has dipped below 10k. I probably average 3 copies a day there for Emperor's Edge. I almost always sell more copies on B&N where you can actually find the novel by drilling down a few pages in the Nookbooks SF/F section. *g* I also do better than others seem to on Smashwords.

    I recently hit the break-even point, and I've been pleased overall with the progress (my novels are at $2.99 too), so I'm not that eager to drop things to $0.99. Buuuut if you suddenly report that you're selling 20x as many ebooks, I might have to try it. :D

  2. I'm really excited to see your results, Derek!

    J. E. Medrick, author of Shackled

  3. I read Konrath's blog too. It seems as if a book already has momentum then lowering the price seems to help increase sales. It seems like you have that with your book.

  4. Good luck Derek. After reading various people's experiences and considering my goals, I just lowered the price on my thriller to 99 cents. I'm not necessarily expecting anything immediate, because sales have been very low anyway. And the book hasn't been published long enough to determine that $2.99 is too high per se. But it seems clear that I increase my chances of it taking off if I'm at 99 cents instead of 2.99

  5. I'm looking forward to tracking your results. I keep hearing both camps, and it'll be interesting to see if the advantages have anything to do with having a large readership in place or if it's pure economics that drives sales.

  6. I think J. Noel has hit it on the head: the real questions is, is price driving sales more than the author's name recognition?

    I think it's still too early in the game to measure effectively. I think readers are buying a lot of stuff cheap now because they can... down the road, I think the quality of writing and the author's name recognition will win out.

    I downloaded one of Amanda Hocking's novels "Switched" and started reading it. Granted, it's not my genre, but her writing was just okay, very okay, in my opinion (a large grade below Stephanie Meyer, I think).

    My worry is that readers will come to expect novels at 99 cents. I think we could be cutting off our noses to spite our faces with this pricing...

  7. This is an instance where I really question the wisdom of dropping your price, Derek. Look at your growth! Each month your growing, and you want to drop the price?? I'm pretty sure that Joe Konrath did it the other way around. The List's sales had either plateaued or were significantly lower than they'd been previously.

    He wasn't gaining momentum with The List, on the contrary, he mentioned that The List had at one time been his best selling book and no longer was.

    I think you should keep making money at the 2.99 price point and only drop the price if your sales plateau for a long time or start falling off significantly.

    Just my 2 cents and I could be wrong, but I don't like this move at all.

    Best of luck,


  8. Although come to think of it, this is less problematic in one aspect--you will likely still sell at least as many copies and so your rankings shouldn't slip any. You will likely leave a lot of money on the table.

    But when people do this the other way around and raise their 99 cent books to 2.99 when the books are gaining momentum, many times they kill their momentum and the books fall off the rankings charts, etc.

    I don't think that will happen here, which is good.

  9. I sorta agree with Gniz here, Derek. I'm not sure how much you will be helping yourself with the drop to 99 cents. If you had the next Noose book done? Yeah, I think I'd consider dropping the first. If you've got three books or more in a series I think it's a no-brainer to drop the first, so you can hook more readers and build up the series.

    One thing that's important to think about is your current growth rate. You will need to make 1080 sales in March at 99 cents to match your February income. But at your present growth rates (you've got a straight line of growth through all the months of release so far), you should be selling about 240 copies in March at $2.99.

    So that means you will need to sell at least 1440 books in March at 99 cents to match income with your projected sales.

    Not saying that won't happen... But I wonder if you're best served by risking lower income to gain bunches of new readers when you lack a lot of other things for them to read, right now.

    Even at 240 sales a month, at $2 income per sale that's $480 a month, $5760 a year, so in two years you'd about double the average income for a first SF novel.

    Well, we'll all be on the edges of our seats waiting to see how it goes. ;)

  10. I am also keenly interested in this, as I am releasing my first book in April. At first I just assumed that $2.99 was the magic price point. That, and frankly, I wanted the 70% royalty. Thing is, I didn't really question it until I saw Joe Konrath bringing it up and Amanda Hocking doing so well with a significant chunk of her list at 99 cents.

    I have another wrinkle to consider. The Violet Skies books are not full length novels. People might feel better about buying novellas at a lower price point. $2.99 is still fairly cheap, even for 40,000 words (compare it to a Big 6 ebook, or a comic book or even a movie rental) but there are enough indie novels out there at the same price with 60,000 words or more that it doesn't look as good in comparison to them. I'll have to think about that.

    I'm also very new, and I need to get my name out there. I've thought about promoting the first book, but maybe I haven't thought enough about the other books- the long run. Maybe for now rankings and sales and reviews are more important than cash.

    So I think what I'll do is start the first book in the series at 99 cents for at least a month or two. Depending on how that turns out, I will either a) raise the price or b) leave it and put the later books at $2.99 so as to lower the ramp of entry but keep the series as a whole profitable.

  11. Edward,

    I've got a 20K story I'm going to release later this year that I'll probably at $1.49 or $1.99. To me, anything above 50K words should be $2.99 or more.

  12. Hi PJ, you can have that opinion. But read JA Konrath's blog and you'll see that plenty of folks are doing well with 99 cent books and novellas, making damn good money on them.

    I think its always a question of what the market will bear, not what something SHOULD be due to any preconceived notions about price.

    If Derek's book wasn't selling at 2.99, he should try it at 99 cents and see how it does. But his book seems to be selling and growing at 2.99. Great for him!

    I've published books of over 90 thousand words for 99 cents and I've published novellas of 10k words for 2.99. It all had to do with what the customers seemed willing to pay and where I could get volume.

    Deciding in your head what's reasonable and market be damned is going to provide nothing but headaches and heartaches for those who stubbornly choose to go that route.

    Just my 2 cents.

  13. All, thanks for the spirited comments! Good arguments on both sides. This price drop is an experiment to see what happens My main goals are to increase readership and hopefully get some more reviews. I only have 6, and that might be stifling my sales. I'm also doing this to give other writers in my situation some solid data. Many of us can't compare ourselves with Konrath's results because we have a tiny fraction of his fame and sales.

  14. My books were 2.99 and not selling well and then Amazon discounted one to .99 cents and it took off, so I dropped the others, too. Last month I set a record--60 books. February has been one book a day with a few sales in the UK too. I'm releasing another book in April that will also be .99 and I think I'll do that for five books before I try selling something at a higher price. I figure the five .99 books can be bought by readers who want to try me out and if they become fans they can get the higher-priced books.

  15. Gniz:

    From a business point of view, you are correct. I think the 99 cent novel just doesn't sit well with me on different levels. I wonder, too, if such pricing will further stigmatize indie writers....

  16. Hi PJ. The question is, stigmatize us further with whom? Editors, agents, the new york times? Who cares about them? I mean that honestly.

    Readers aren't stigmatizing us as long as they're buying our books...You must be talking about so-called opinion makers, the artsy fartsy crowd, the hipsters and pipe-smoking publishing house cronies. I don't think what they think matters much anymore.

  17. I don't try new authors nowadays because paperbacks are too expensive. I am not going to spend $10 on somebody who has no track record. If the book is lousy, the only recourse I have is to leave a bad review on Amazon, and there's no satisfaction in that. However, .99 is nothing--I will indeed try new authors at that price, and I can't be alone. So... if it takes publishing five or even ten books at .99 in order to allow readers to take a chance and, hopefully, stay with me, I'll do that. I don't care about stigma. I'm cashing too many checks to care about stigma. In fact, there is no stigma.

  18. Wow. All these comments are very interesting as well as informative. Having read through them, I'm leaning toward suggesting you don't lower the price until you can do it as part of a campaign to introduce the next book in the series, which I think should be at the 2.99 price point (unless something else changes). Kind of like the paperback isn't released until the next hardcover issue is out.
    Even if you go ahead, why would not 1.99 be a good point? I'm not sure, at these prices, the demand is all that elastic, but it will be interesting to see what you discover - for all of us!
    thanks, tony

  19. Quick status update:

    36 hours into the price decrease, I've sold 14 copies of the novel (6 on Tuesday, 8 today). I averaged 6.6 copies per day in February, so I have increased a little bit.

    On the other hand, I've only made about $5 in royalties so far at the lower price. At the old price I would have made $24 so far.

    Hopefully, sales will pick up by the end of the month.

  20. Ranking udpate:

    I broke my Amazon sales record today. It's down to #5491. I'm also in the #30s for High Tech. Woot!