Friday, October 29, 2010

E-Book Pricing - Part II

Amazon knew what they were doing when they made the 70% royalty capped on both ends. They have effectively thumped writers on the head telling them – ‘get with the program.’

Most Indie writers have heard the call and upped their prices. Backlash comes from people who don’t want to pay for novels. (Well, neither do publishers for that matter, royalty percentages are chump change.)

If we look at the cliché ‘the cream rises to the top’ then we have a better idea of the pricing structure as a “system” of the market.

For instance, Fan Fiction is free. The best FF authors can hope for is eyeballs. Not many people are willing to pay even a penny to read the stuff. There is a lot of free crap out there – thank God most of it won’t see paper, ever.

In fact, Smashwords is so full of freebies that’s it’s hard to make any money there. As a distributor, they give great access – sales are iffy at best.

The Kindle Store was the home of the $.99 Newbie Indie because Amazon wisely won’t let Indies give their work away. Those rock bottom prices won’t go on forever. The $.99 novel needs to go the way of the $.99 gallon of gasoline.

At $.35 a copy, it will take months to pay for the ISBN I bought from Smashwords. It is not going to pay my car payment, or buy hay for my horses.

The latest game-changing group to hit the e-book market are the mid-listers, salvaging their careers by publishing their backlist. These books were published – they are not going to be priced for $.99.
They have no reason not to charge ‘pro’ prices.

If the “average book sells 18 copies” never earning out it’s advance, only staying on the shelves a few weeks, going Indie makes a lot of cents. (pun intended)

Like it or not – writing is a craft, but publishing is a business. Responsible publishing means responsible pricing. In order to stay in business writers HAVE write a book that proves they are pros, and charge accordingly.

If The Great Publishing Company can sell an e-book for $12.99 the same book is a bargain at $6.99. No agent to take ‘charge’ of the money, then ‘forget’ to send the royalties to the writer. (Yes, it happens.)

The ‘carrot’ approach to raising prices should have worked like a charm. Instead it has run smack into the writer’s paradox – inferiority from years of abuse from agents and the snobbery from rest of the publishing establishment.

A starving artist should shut the hell up and starve. The literary status quo must be maintained.

And those two guys behind the curtain – you know – Joe Konrath and Dean Wesley Smith – they are lying!

Everything they say about the changes in publishing is a damn lie.

Right – and I’ve got this big bridge that I’ll sell you cheap….

For more on this topic:

E-Book Pricing - Part I

E-Book Pricing - Part III
E-Book Pricing - Part IV

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blood Price by Tanya Huff

Blood Price (Victoria Nelson, #1)Blood Price by Tanya Huff

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As the opening book in a series from 1991 - I enjoyed reading "Blood Price." Like many other reviewers I found out about the books from the TV series.

Huff does a good job of pulling the reader into the story. I liked her 'regular' characters enough to keep reading the rest of the series. While Norman came off as uninteresting, she makes up for it with her later villains. 

Looking only at the first book, after having devoured the series, it is difficult to keep from writing spoilers. Henry is my favorite vampire character - bumping the Vampire Kitty-Cat Patch off his throne. Vickie holds up well, now and in the rest of the series.

Finding the entire series was difficult. I had to buy the books used. I was disappointed that Huff has not released the series as e-books. I would liked to have bought them for my Nook, instead of paper copies that I don't have room to keep.

View all my reviews

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Dry, Dry, Dry

There has been no significant rain since August.

The lawn died months ago. Only a strip fed by condensation from the roof lives.

The pastures are beyond dead grass dry.

They are barren.

The chickens hunt grasshoppers, like Jurassic Park raptors, they move with amazing speed over the barren ground. Few bugs survive the predation of the flock.

The weeds have withered, the horses move restlessly over the pastures, seeking out the few blades surviving in the low places. They drink deeply in the mornings, sucking the 100 gallon trough dry.

Blue skies are relentless. Even the deeply cloudy days cheerlessly refusing to part with any moisture.

Even now, as the sky is blurring over with high clouds, mocking the color of the sky, the ground has little hope. The wind does not bring the sharp scent of rain. The clouds merely curtain away the sun for a day.

The grass is dead, the trees suffer in silence. Birds, fox and coyote prowl, endlessly searching for water.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

J.R. Ward at 'The Bookstore'

J.R. Ward came into our local bookstore for a signing, yesterday evening to support the release of "Crave" the second book in her "Fallen Angels" series. Her hot selling series "The Black Dagger Brotherhood"  are vampire paranormals.

I've heard a few rumors about Ward's relationship to her fans. I wanted to see who would turn up for the signing. Working weekends has always kept me from the fun stuff. I went yesterday to satisfy my curiousity, getting a signed copy was secondary.

I expected a crowd of tween-age Goths, instead there was a cross section of ages and styles of dress. People came from Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas and Alabama. The little store was packed, I would guess 200 people - there may have been another hundred. Waiting in line was fun for me, hubby had his fill of estrogen and retreated to the car.

Ward appeared promptly at 6pm. J.R. is a dynamic woman who knows how to work a crowd. She's twig thin, ghost pale and very tall, she wore a black dress, pearls, 3 or 4 inch heels and dark sunglasses. Now I've seen her I understand why her heroes are giants at 6' 5" to 6' 7". It's all about those extra inches.

I've read "Covet" and enjoyed it. However, her fans were immersed in the "The Black Dagger Brotherhood." The questions were all about the Brothers. Ward knows exactly what her fans want, and is expert at keeping them entertained. The signing was part theater, part Q & A, and a great time.

What I learned from this - not being on the 'inside' with all the characters - is that marketing can mix with showmanship. As with Stephen King, J.R. Ward projects an image - she is, herself, a character.

The warm, gleeful relationship Ward has with her fans is just too cool.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

E-Book Pricing - Part I

What price to charge for an e-book? This is the great debate amongst Indie writers.

Hanging out on a few independent writer sites, I've noticed this issue cropping up. It is the one foremost in my own mind. Joe Konrath made a good case on Kindle boards (sorry can't find the link) and has another blog post about pricing here. Zoe Winters has touched on the subject here and here. Joe and Zoe are only two people, but both are very visible.

Kindle and Smashwords are the two venues I'm the most familiar with, but there are more. Publishing through Smashwords opens up 4 other markets – Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sony and Kobo. (PubIt! just went live. As a reader, I'm excited. More books for my Nook!)

The Kindle store doesn't allow Indie writers to give their work away. In fact, Amazon may have raised the royalty rate to 70% to bring the price of e-books UP to $2.99 as well as down to $9.99. While Smashwords hasn't set a minimum price – they have "coupon codes" so a writer can price their book at a competitive level, yet still give away discounted or free copies as needed.

I want to point out is that many Indie authors are selling their books for $.99 or giving them away. Selling a book cheap (or free) was the way that Winters and Konrath got noticed. As the numbers of Indie authors have skyrocketed, cheap reads are very common. Perhaps too common, there is a lot of downward pressure on book prices.

There is a precedent for freebies on the 'trade' side, too. Ellora's Cave and Harlequin give e-books away. Barnes & Noble gives away a book a week to Nook owners.

I'm kicking myself for losing the link for this – but I picked up the price list below from somewhere. (I'm so sorry, whoever you are!) I found this place from a link of Zoe's, I've posted it here to give us a benchmark.

$0.99 Short Shorts: Under 3K
$1.99 Shorts: 3-7K
$2.99 Stories: 7-15K
$3.99 Novelettes: 15-35K
$4.99 Novellas: 35-50K
$5.99 Novels 50-70K
$6.99 Super Novels: 70-140K
$7.99 Super XL Novels: 140-250K
$8.99 Super XXL Novels: 250K +

*Edited 9/18/2011 - The source is Selena Kitt - from her romantica/erotica publishing company. So the prices are valid for the Romance genre.*

Pricing by length makes sense to me. This list is from an e-publisher. Some would say a 'professionally' published e-book rates more money than a lowly self-published book. Following this price schedule would be a huge step up – "Let's Do Lunch" would sell for $6.99 just by word count.

A second point is that e-book length, as well as pricing, appears to go in two different directions. The women's fiction/romance/erotica market is going shorter, while the fantasy side is getting longer. Hmmm…Does this reflect the free time available for each gender? I know that I don't read modern fantasy anymore, because the darn books are too long. I digress – back on track.

Is this a textbook case of 'the cream rises to the top?'

Joe and Zoe – who gained their popularity with $.99 books, are vocal about raising prices in a time when more people are saying 'Indie books are worthless crap.' Since they are the 'cream' of the Indie world, they may be on the right track for themselves, but not for everyone.

I killed my sales by upping the price of "Let's Do Lunch" to $2.99. There are a number of caveats to that statement. The book is available in more markets than just Kindle, thanks to Smashwords, it even has an ISBN number. Having the sales drop from 4 a week to 0 was a big 'oh shit.'

The reason that I'm 'coming out' on this issue is that I promised myself in the beginning that "Lunch" was an experiment. I could document the 'ups and downs' so other wannabe writers could check this blog for 'real time' results.

Back to pricing – Is $.99 the only answer?

Unknown, self-published authors may feel they don't have a choice. Is the market saying 'if it costs more than a buck, forget it.' to unknowns like myself?

Should we drop the Kindle price back to $.99 because we're desperate to see some sales? Or, raise the price to the charts 'market levels' to combat the pressure for cheap/free reads? Either way changes to Smashwords take weeks to trickle down, while the Kindle contract stipulates they will have the lowest price.

Splitting the price to the different markets could be a good way to test my pricing theory. I could drop my Kindle price to $.99 and leave the rest the same. This could also be an ugly can of worms that I don't want to freaking open! I can see an price war – of my own doing – that will take months to clear up.

*Edited 9/18/2011 - Dropping the price to $.99 didn't work for me. What it did was change the 'Also Bought' list to $.99 and free e-books. This in turn cause more problems as I tried to raise the price to $2.99.* 

*What did work for me was releasing a second e-book. This was 'Impressive Bravado' a 7k short story. The release of this e-book as a freebie in March on produced sales through the summer of 2011. (You can get a free copy from Smashwords through 12/31/11 with this code: HT72M)*
Marketing is a pain in the tush – get on with it!

The ugly truth is that marketing is now the 'make or break' for a writer. It doesn't matter if you are published by a 'trade' publisher, or if you self-published. New writers don't get any marketing help.

Short of hiring someone to market the book, how should a writer work out some kind of marketing strategy? There are plenty of review sites, more 'author interview' sites. Neither of these made any difference in my sales. (Not even Authors on Show, though they gave me a week of phenomenal hits.)

Creating a marketing co-op could be an answer, if I decided I didn't want to write and wanted only to market other writer's books. In my case, joining a co-op would be a better idea. Yet when I look at the one co-op I'm familiar with, it doesn't look so good. is the co-op I'm talking about – I see where they are trolling for authors – but not advertising their content. Book prices vary by length and the purchased package. Yet I don't see them taking advantage of their content by marketing the site to readers. They have no brand. This mistake may kill the site.

*Edited - 9/18/2011 - Looks like the site is dead. There are no blog posts and the newest content appears to be from 2010.*

Content is valuable – to simply charge authors for disk space is a waste of resources. Kindle is a brand. Barnes and Noble is a brand. Authors on Show has the right idea. (Go Team AoS!) could learn a lot from AoS.

Even though my efforts at marketing (besides the $.99 price) have been futile, other writers are looking to me for advice, and/or help marketing their books.

Talk about the blind leading the blind.

*Edited 9/18/2011 - this is my most popular post, with the most hits, on this entire site. The chart has proven more useful to more people than I ever expected.*

For more on this topic:

E-Book Pricing Part II 
E-Book Pricing Part III
E-Book Pricing Part VI

Related links:
Authors on Show - Showcases Authors in UK
Impressive Bravado - Short Horse Story by K. A. Jordan
(You can get a free copy from Smashwords through 12/31/11 with this code: HT72M)
Let's Do Lunch - Women's Fiction by K. A. Jordan