On the Seventh Day of Christmas, The Author Jason Halstead Talks About E-books
The Ebook – What it’s Worth vs. What it’ll Sell For
I’ve got more books available on Amazon than I have fingers on my hands. What’s more, I have plans to put out at least 6 more in 2012, hopefully as many as 12. All written by me, not co-authors or partners. Yet in spite of this, I struggle with the same dilemma so many other authors have these days: how to price their book.
I’ve read some great articles by some very successful writers. From John Locke to Michael Mathias to Michael Hicks and more than a few others that I can’t remember the names of. Each has a pricing strategy, but each arrived at that strategy through trial and error. I’m coming up with my own strategy, but I still like to test the waters from time to time. Sadly, I usually regret the testing period.
The very successful writers with high prices are exceptions to the rule, in my educated opinion. They’ve made it big and built up enough of a following that they can now set their prices and expect them to be met. The Jason Halstead’s of the world, on the other hand, are still trying to hit that magic amount of books and readers. Until we get there, we are slaves of the system and have to rely on tactics and campaigns to help move our products.
I write science fiction, fantasy, and mix in a lot of other genres for fun (paranormal and romance being the two most often tossed into the blonder). Because the number of people who are hooked on what I write is probably still under a hundred, anybody who stumbles across my book will look at it and compare the price of mine versus one of the other ones on the webpage in the same genre. If all things are equal in their mind (cover, title, blurb, etc.), they’ll go with the cheaper one.
A big argument I’ve seen many times is the belief that a more expensive book draws in more readers who are expecting a quality product. That tells me those authors consider readers who buy cheaper books little better than riff-raff. Shame on them. All readers are created equal, and every one of them has the same power in their hands as far as feedback, rating, and reviewing is concerned. Or the ultimate vote of power – future sales.
I have a tactic I use that I recently read Amanda Hocking also uses – though I can’t claim she’s trying to emulate me. The first book in each of my series I price at $.99. Something she doesn’t do is this: if at all possible, I try to make it free. There’s a few reasons for this – I’m trying to get people introduced to my writing, firstly. I hope they like what I do and if that’s the case, then they’ll buy the other books in the series (which I price according to length – anything at or beyond 50k words is $2.99, below that typically $.99). I’ve had some pretty good luck with this. My free books (two so far, Wanted and Dark Earth) have “sold” 40,000 copies since late November and brought in a decent stream of people reading my other books (primarily the sequels but not exclusively limited to them).
Another reason is that I want people to have a chance to check me out without having to spend any time. It’s a show of faith on my part and I want people to know that I appreciate every reader very much, free or paid. To that point I have a newsletter on my website and for the people who sign up for it I try to give them special deals whenever possible – a free ebook download from my website and a pre-release period of a new book where they can get it on Amazon at a discounted price being my two current gifts.
It keeps coming back to pricing. My advice is that if you’re not established in the industry, ignore the pricing advise from those who are. People like us need exposure first. Get your books out there in the hands of people and generate buzz about them. Bring them back in for sequels or other material and when you’ve sold five hundred thousand or so then you can start dabbling with pricing. Until then, keep them affordable and as low-risk as possible. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been told by a reader they were surprised at how good Wanted or Dark Earth was, given that it was a freebie. And yes, those people came back to buy and read more of my books.
It can be a bitter pill to swallow. You may feel your book is worth $5.99 or $9.99 (or more), but you can only get what it’s worth out of it by finding what you can sell it for.
To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website and view his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.
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