Indie Thoughts: Enticing with price

The top two factors driving book sales both stem from having a loyal customer base. Building that base is the goal as it is in any business that depends on repeat customers. In a previous post I outlined these parts to building that base.

  1. Create a product (a book in this case) that’s likely to delight a certain set of consumers (readers).
  2. Let those consumers (readers) know about it.
  3. Make it enticing for them to give it a try.
  4. Make it easy for those who liked it to know when they can get another; and make it easy to get.
  5. Get more product (another book that’s similar to the last) out the door so your repeat customers can come back for more.

In this post I’m going to share some thoughts on #3.

So how do you entice someone new to give you a try? There are a lot of things I see that play into that:  a great cover, description, sample chapters, and reviews that all say quality and scream genre. But there’s another huge factor to making something enticing. And that is price. Or rather price vs. perceived value.

I’m looking at Mark Corkers reports from Smashwords.

I’m looking at slides 65-69. I know many of us have seen them.

If the patterns are similar at Amazon, which sells more ebooks than anyone else, then a price of $3.99 on average will sell more than double the copies of $6.99.

$3.99 means MORE readers who might develop some level of loyalty, MORE word of mouth, and it means MORE revenue than at other price levels.

It means more than double the chances of getting your stuff in front on an influencer.

More than double the chances for luck to come into play.

And those odds grow exponentially.

And, again, all along the way that price earns you more than if you were pricing at $6.99 or $9.99 because you sell more books.

Of course, these are averages, which means folks are winning at prices above and below this. Furthermore, it’s not the same across genres. For example, it appears romance tends to sell better towards the lower end of the range Corker shows.  But it clearly shows that price is an important part of enticing a reader to give you a try.

And when I look at the indies who are selling huge numbers and have built their customer base, the vast majority of them seem to have gotten there by tapping into the market forces Corker shows on these slides.

That doesn’t mean they price all their books the same. Some are doing very well using a loss-leader/sample strategy where they offer the first book in a series for 99 cents or free. This also doesn’t mean they set their price and forget. it. They seem to do just the opposite, experimenting with different prices.  I noticed the Joe Konrath, who became a mega-seller at $2.99, raised his prices to $5.99 recently. He’s dropped them back down to $2.99 and $3.99. But he was clearly testing something. In an interview earlier this year with Simon Duringer, Russell Blake who is doing very well in the thriller category recently said this.

Probably the most effective thing I did over the last two years other than Select, which came and went in terms of usefulness, was making the first book in my JET and my Assassin series free. That lowered the barrier to giving my work a whirl to nil, and my readership exploded from there. About a month and a half ago I stopped doing that because I saw my conversion rates were averaging about 12-13% from the first to the second book, and I questioned whether, with, say, 500 downloads a day, and seeing 60 sales of book two, it might not be more desirable to get 70 paid sales of book one, and seeing that same 60 on the conversion (because if someone pays for your first book, they’re probably going to read it, and soon, whereas if they get it free, it could take years, or more likely, never happen). So far so good.

Clearly the folks who are doing well with this are experimenting with price to see which levels maximize revenue and loyal customers. And I think that’s the key. They are looking at what seems to be working for others, experimenting, and basing decisions on results.


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