My Self-Publishing Journey: Ongoing Experimentation and A SALE!

If you’ve been following this blog series for any time, you know that the essence of indie publishing is experimentation. Nothing is written in stone as THE way to proceed to achieve guaranteed success. I’ve recommended certain paths as being better than others, but one thing you can be sure of is that there’s an exception to every “rule.”

FrankieRobertson_Lightbringer_200pxSo although I’ve done well using Kindle Select I decided to remove two of my titles from that exclusive relationship with Amazon and put them back up on Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. I did that a month ago for LIGHTBRINGER and three weeks ago for WITH HEART TO HEAR. I intended to leave them up there for several months, so I could gather data to see if alternate distribution platforms would sell enough copies to compensate for the increased sales that come with a successful free promotion on Kindle Select and the paid borrows from Amazon Prime members.withhearttohear7_850

So far the answer is: No. I’ll ignore Smashwords because their reporting is SO much slower than B&N and Amazon, and because it can take weeks or months for their affiliates to list a book. What I can tell you is that to date I’ve sold one copy of WITH HEART TO HEAR  on Nook.  One.

But that’s not enough reason to go rushing back to Amazon where the sales of those books hasn’t been much better. I have friends whose books have sold well on Barnes & Noble. I’ve said often enough that indie publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. The problem is, at this rate of sales these books aren’t even getting off the blocks. The ranks of these books won’t allow them to be discovered. So what’s a girl to do?

Since I can’t run a free promotion effectively, I’ve decided to lower the prices of these two books across all platforms. One of my favorite indie romances, A BED OF THORNS AND ROSES is priced at $2.99 and is currently ranked at about #30,000 on Amazon. This book came out in May 2011 and the author does NOTHING to promote her book. She has no other books, doesn’t tweet, doesn’t facebook, doesn’t have a website that I’ve found. She just wrote one fabulous book. (It’s also available on Nook.)

Whether or not my books are fabulous is up to the readers to decide, but I can play with the price and see what happens. For the next month (or so) I’m lowering the price of LIGHTBRINGER  to $2.99 (also on Nook) and WITH HEART TO HEAR to $1.99 (also on Nook).

It’s up to each author to figure out where the best price point for her books is and the only way to do that is with experimentation. Joe Konrath likes $2.99, Jennifer Roberson priced her indie Kindle releases at $3.99 for LONNIE and $4.99 for THE IRISHMAN. Dennis McKiernan priced the digital version of  AT THE EDGE OF THE FOREST at $5.99. DANGEROUS TALENTS and FORBIDDEN TALENTS are doing okay at $4.95, but LIGHTBRINGER  is not.

So I’m shaking things up a bit, price wise. Now the readers get to speak, and tell me how much price makes a difference to them and how eager they are to buy my books in the Nook format.

Authors, how have you priced your books, and why?  Readers, what do you think about book prices? Does 99 cents say “trash” to you? Does $2.99 say “bargain” or “beware”? Does $4.99 say “quality” or “overpriced”?

28 Comments

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28 responses to “My Self-Publishing Journey: Ongoing Experimentation and A SALE!

  1. Glad you posted this, Frankie, as I’ve been reading a lot about the pros and cons of Indie publishing, with the thought in mind of what I want to do with my book when I’m finished. I am afraid if I want a book, or it sounds good to me, I’m not the best judge of pricing, as I will pay whatever it’s listed at, usually. I do know, however, that others won’t, so it is critical to decide the best way to go about pricing your books. I recently bought your book, Dangerous Talents, and I don’t even know what I paid. I just knew I wanted to read it, so I got it. Now I would definitely notice anything on Kindle over the $9.99 point, but anything under that doesn’t seem to ping my radar, most of the time. I have ordered $.99 books several times, and some were surprisingly good, while others were poorly constructed and had lousy copy editing. Therefor, I don’t use the $.99 price as an endorsement either way. I have also paid much more for books that just didn’t work for me, even by established print writers. I’m current reading Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran, and find the whole subject simply fascinating. I’ll be interested in what your followers have to add to the discussion. At this point in time, I’m thinking of the $2.99 price for mine, when it is ready, partly due to the philosophy of making less but selling in larger volume, and partly because I’m a brand new writer. But I may change my mind by the time I’m ready to go with it.

    BTW, I have only read the first 2 pages of Dangerous Talents, due to the holiday rush which isn’t finished yet at my house. I loved how it started, and loved the tone of your writing, so I’m eager to get back to it asap.

    • Marcia, thanks for sharing your perspective on pricing. It’s similar to my own.

      I’m glad you’re reading LETS GET DIGITAL. It’s an excellent place to get up to speed on self-publishing. David Gaughran is very knowledgeable.

      • In the war between traditional publishing methods and the various ways to self-publish, I think I agree with what I’ve read in Let’s Get Digital. Why make it an either/or thing? It’s obvious there are pros and cons of both methods, at least for now, though some aren’t too sure what the future might hold for more traditional methods of publishing. (Me, I don’t want to give up buying print books along with my Kindle selections, but who knows where it will all end up?)

        I’m really glad I found Gaughran’s blog, as both it and his book are very informative for a newbie. And I’m glad I’ve found a bit more time in my schedule to follow your journey, as well.

      • Thanks, Marcia! I’m glad you’re coming along for the ride. 🙂 I’m not giving up paper books entirely either. And there is room in my career for tradpub, and when I write something that will fit into that box I’ll submit to New York again.

      • Not sure where the best place to post this is, but I wanted to let you know I’ve gotten farther into Dangerous Talents, and I am REALLY enjoying it. When I find myself getting teary-eyed early on in a book, I know I’m in for a good read. Reading about Sorn’s death really touched me, and I couldn’t believe how quickly I had become invested in these characters. Well done, Frankie!! I can’t wait to read more. In fact, I’m going back to the book now, to see if I can get a few more pages read before I fall asleep.

      • I’m so glad you’re enjoying it, Marcia! I hope it keeps you up past your bedtime.

      • Frankie, I’m halfway through Dangerous Talents and still enjoying it very much. I posted on Bookin’ It today about reading/supporting/encouraging WordPress authors, and let everyone know I was in the middle of your book, enjoying it, and planning to review it as soon as I finish it. I hope a few people click through to your blog from today’s post, and more when I review your book. (I linked to both your blog and the amazon page for Dangerous Talents). I’m really looking forward to Ragni’s story, too.

      • Frankie, I just wanted to let you know that I finished Dangerous Talents, enjoyed it very much, and have already bought the next book. I also reviewed it yesterday, if you are interested.
        Bookin’ It

        Hope at least a few readers click through and check it out for themselves. Wishing you lots of sales in 2013!

      • Thanks for the lovely review, Marcia. I’ll have to catch up on my movie viewing and watch THOR. 😉 (BTW, it would be lovely if you could cross post your review to Amazon.)

        I hope you enjoy FORBIDDEN TALENTS, too.

      • I’d be happy to, Frankie, if I can figure out how to do it. Is it permissible to leave in the link to your blog, or should that come out? And do watch Thor, by all means. It’s funny. And it has…tada!…THOR. *happy sigh*
        (He doesn’t really look like you described Lord Dahleven, but hey. Gorgeous Viking! Close enough!)

      • The link to the blog should probably come out. That info is on my Amazon author page anyway. Thanks again for the lovely review!

      • It’s done, Frankie. I shortened the review to fit amazon’s criteria, and in an hour or so, I received a notice that someone had made a purchase based on my review. Wow. I know it’s just ONE, but hey…it made me feel good on your behalf, and now I’m thinking I should probably copy a few other reviews to amazon, too, in the hopes that every little bit will help other authors.

      • Thanks, Marcia! Every single sale is appreciated!

      • You’re welcome, Frankie. And I just put the review up on GoodReads, too. Good luck!

  2. Frankie, As someone from traditional publishing who has only listened to a lot of people who are speaking about making money at self-publishing, it seems many began with a following they brought from a prior traditional publishing career. But say a new writer doesn’t have that option. Do B & N, Smashwords, or Amazon even offer avenues to promote your work along with more well-known writers, or is that something you have to do by yourself? With the flood of books out there in all markets, it seems to me marketing to potential customers ranks a close second to writing a good book. And with only so many hours in one day I wonder how a writer can do it all effectively.

    • Roz, as far as I know, only Amazon offers a way to boost the visibility of a book by improving popularity rank, and that’s by using Kindle Select’s free promotion feature. KS is only available if you make your book exclusive to Amazon for a minimum of 90 days. To make your promotion more successful in translating to paid sales afterward, it helps to notify certain websites about your promotion a few weeks ahead. From my experience, this can be very effective, but the boost in popularity rank fades after about a month. Some books do catch fire and enjoy a more sustained rate of sales, though.

      One difference between traditional publishing and self publishing is that with trad pub, the publisher does a big push at the beginning (if you’re lucky) and then the book either flies or it sinks. With indies, we can keep fiddling around until we get it right. Our books won’t be pulled to make room for the next big thing.

      You’re right, whatever time an indie publisher spends on promotion is stolen from writing time. So many people say you have to crank hard on that, but I’m not so sure. Look at A BED OF THORNS AND ROSES, and Kathleen Kirkwood’s A SLIP IN TIME. Both are doing well without a lot of promotion.

  3. This style of publishing really hasn’t been around long enough to set anything in stone, not that you’d know that from the number of get-rich-quick huckster publications out there promising riches through ebooks. The Kindle has been around for, what? Five years? Six? There’s barely a system there to tweak, yet, and it’s a proverbial moving target. There’s something about modern indie publishing that leaves people convinced there’s got to be some trick or technique, some button to be pushed, that will make it all go. I’m coming around to the belief that this is no more true for what we do than it was/is for traditionally published authors. (Kindle Select looked promising at first, but seems to be eroding under sheer weight of participation.) Quality writing, persistence, and the sheer luck of writing what people want to read will more than likely turn out to be the bottom line, in the long run.

    • I agree, there is no panacea that will assure success. Kindle Select isn’t as useful as it was when it was first introduced, but remains effective in some instances in a limited capacity. But KS won’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. Far more important is, as you say, quality writing, persistence, and luck.

      • Amen, Frankie. I look at it as another way to get your work seen and read, and often an easier route for new talent to gain exposure. Perhaps a chance for more “silk purses” to show up than would be likely via the grueling process of finding a print publisher willing to take on your book. Then there’s that length of time thing, where retailers send back new books that don’t sell immediately. Having no time limit on your work being available gives you a lot longer for people to discover you and recommend you to others. Seems to me, there is still a need for both venues, though I can see why David Gaughran feels traditional publishing is a dying dinosaur that refuses to evolve. A lot of what he says makes sense, though I’d prefer to see both systems thrive. All the better for those of us who want to write.

      • I may be naive, but I resist the doomsayers message of the impending death of tradpub. The industry will not remain as it has been, but print books won’t disappear completely, either. It’s natural for the old guard to try to protect its turf. That’s been done in every industry that’s change. Sometimes changing technology causes entire businesses to disappear. More often those businesses evolve as new blood replaces the old. Print may diminish, I think, but it won’t disappear completely, and certainly not for a while.

      • I think if they want to remain as important as they have been traditional publishing just may have to make some changes. All successful businesses have to do that. If they refuse to, they could fall by the wayside for general mass publications. Certainly not for collector’s books and other bigger ticket publications. But I could easily see them being pushed out of the paperback and general fiction market unless they begin to evolve a bit. Borders didn’t, and they are gone. Barnes & Noble seems to be making adjustments and changes and hanging in there. Whichever way it goes, I don’t think it will ever be quite the same again, and that just might be a good thing for up and coming writers. For sure it will be interesting to watch and see how it all falls out. Things seem to be changing daily.

  4. Will check out your sale prices at Amazon. I prefer to purchase PDF files and then load to my Kindle. Then am sure I have the book if my Kindle ‘looses’ it. I have always thought that Amazon’s site is more competitive, organized, and and a better book selection than B&N.
    I still love print books as I don’t trust the electronic books to not crash and I love the feel of books in my hands!!

  5. I noodle with the price of my novel now and then for limited times–for instance, around Christmas, I dropped it to $.99. I’m not sure if that accounted for it’s few more sales or not. My other titles are shorter so I leave them at $.99. I have the book in Smashwords and Barnes and Noble as well, and it does about what you’ve experienced in those platforms. However, since I have readers that use other readers besides Kindle, I want to leave them the option to get it and haven’t tried Select yet. Yet. I might, but Select seems far too restrictive for my tastes, currently.

    • Juli, from what I’ve read from other authors, I wouldn’t pull titles from Nook if they’re selling at a steady rate. That annoys readers. But using KS to launch a new release for three to six months with a couple of free promotions seems like judicious use of a tool.

      As for noodling around with the price, it’s only been three days but so far this price drop doesn’t seem to be generating the sales I’d hoped. Maybe it’s just a weird blip, but it’s a little unnerving.

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