D. D. Scott’s Indie Epublishing Strategic Planning – Part Two (Ebook Pricing)

Happy Monday, WG2E-Land!

A couple of weeks ago, I started my Indie Epublishing Strategic Planning Series for 2013 with a list of the questions I ask myself each year while preparing my Indie Epublishing Production and Business Plans.

D. D. Scott’s Indie Epublishing Strategic Planning – Part One

One of my questions is as follows:

What will My Price Points Philosophy be for The New Year? Will I Continue my First One is On Me Strategy? Will I Stick with 99 Cents or Move Up? (Is my goal More Readers or More Money?)

After much thought, and a bunch of cussing and discussing, here’s what I’ve decided to do when it comes to Ebook Pricing for 2013…

First, y’all know about my Snickers Bar Philosophy, in which I keep the majority of my new fiction releases at 99 Cents, reasoning that by being the Snickers Bar of Ebooks, I’m going to sell a bunch more copies than if I priced like a Godiva Bar, let’s say $3.99 and up (for a single Ebook).

Now then, up until a few months ago, using the 99 Cent Price Point got you a ton of fabulous VISIBILITY on Amazon, B&N Nook, Smashwords, Apple, and the rest of the platforms too. You could more than make up for a higher royalty per book (using a price point of $2.99 or above) because of the higher quantity of books sold at the lower 99 Cent price.

BUT…not anymore!!!

Due to the agency pricing/cost-fixing schemes and the resulting Department of Justice settlement with a few of The Big Six Publishers – with several more holding out for litigation, many Big Six/TradiPubs are lowering their prices to between 99 Cents and $3.99.

Also…and this is HUGE…Amazon’s algorithms have definitely changed to favor the TradiPub books at these lower prices. (I would say the same when it comes to Barnes & Noble Nook too.) Look at the Bestseller Lists across all categories, and the emails The Zon and B&N send to their Kindle and Nook Customers. Where they used to heavily favor Indies, because of our low prices, they now favor post-price fixing TradiPubs at lower prices and Ebooks in Amazon KDP Select or Nook First.

What to do…What to do…

I first took a look at what Ebook products I have out that are working beyond fabulously well at their current price points. And that is my Boxed Set #1, which is still making me around $2,000 per month at a $2.99 price point for 5 novels and 1 short-story – so an average price per book of 50 Cents.

Next, I looked at my overall goals and philosophies…yes, I still totally believe in and thrive on treating readers to a “book for a buck.” And I’m tickled that, in this world economy, I can make peeps laugh for a Dollar Menu price.

But, that said, somehow, I’ve got to balance that goal and philosophy with increasing (or at least maintaining) my books’ visibility!

Great visibility still reigns for my “First One is On Me” strategy…so, I’ll definitely keep the book that started it all for me – BOOTSCOOTIN’ BLAHNIKS – FREE across all platforms. (***I get over 5,000 new readers per month using that strategy. That’s how many FREE downloads I get on that book per month across all platforms.)

I also still want more readers over more money.

BUT…to have it all, I’ve got to make some tweaks to my comprehensive pricing strategy.

Here’s the solution I’ve come up with and the one that will go into effect sometime between now and the new year…

I’m releasing 2 new Boxed Sets – a Cozy Cash Mystery Boxed Set (including 4 novels, 2 short story prequels, a christmas novella and bunches of bonus excerpts) for $3.99 and a Stuck with a Series Boxed Set (including 1 novel and two novellas as well as a bunch of bonus excerpts) for $2.99.

So, the first boxed set will cost readers on average around 57 Cents per book and the second one around 99 Cents per book.

All of my promotional efforts will be to drive my readers from Boxed Set #1 through #3. I won’t do much of any promotion for all of my single title backlist products.

***Note: Boxed Sets of all price ranges ($2.99 to $9.99 and up) are getting HUGE Visibility on all-platforms. My gut tells me it’s because they’re at prices that the etailers see as money-makers and customers flock to for more bang for the buck.

At the same time I’ll be focusing on and “pushing” my Boxed Set products, I’ll bump my single title backlist books to $1.99 each. (That’s another thing I’ve noticed post-DOJ settlement with The Big Six…suddenly, the $1.99 price point is being used more and is definitely seeing the visibility 99 Cents no longer is. I’d go so far as to say that $1.99 is quickly becoming the new 99 Cents.)

My 2013 new releases will be between $1.99 and $2.99, but they’ll be a tad longer in length (just a tad because I do still see a ton of evidence that readers are still luving shorter reads that they can finish and enjoy on-the-go). So, those books will be priced a little higher, but include some fabulous multi-media content along with a few other “extra treats” to sweeten the “bangs for the extra buck(s).”

Okay, that’s what my Ebook Pricing will look like in 2013. What do you think, WG2E-Land? Is my plan going to work? Or do you think it’s flawed in some way that could make it a bust? What about you? How are you pricing your Ebooks in 2013? And why have you chosen those price points?

The Best of Ebook Pricing Wishes — D. D. Scott

D. D. Scott is an Amazon and Barnes and Noble Top 100 Bestselling Romantic Comedy and Humorous Mystery Author. She’s also a Writer’s Go-To-Gal for Muse Therapy and Indie Epublishing, the Co-Founder of The WG2E- The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing, and the Founder of The RG2E – The Reader’s Guide to E-publishing.  You can get all the scoop on her, her books, her Online Classes and Live Workshops, plus juicy tidbits too from her new cyber home…D. D. Scott-ville.

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Comments

  1. Jeanne says:

    Hope your new plan for 2013 will work really well for you D.D.! I’ll be reading ALL of your books…..whatever you decide.

  2. Good morning! As

    As for pricing, my avid reader niece says she looks for books under $4.99. And couple of reviewers thanked me for making my books affordable at $2.99, so I’m thinking that’s a good price point for my books. Originally, they were $4.99 then I dropped them to $3.99 and now they’re $2.99. I still want to get them on B & N and do the first one’s on me but need the time to do so. I think the boxed set is a great idea – one I want to do, too.

    Interesting about the TradiPubs new pricing strategy – nothing like competition to drive prices down!

    Thanks for always providing such awesome information , D.D.!

    ~Nancy Jill

    • D.D. Scott says:

      I think that $2.99 is the magic Bargain Book price right now, especially for a Boxed Set, Nancy! I’m very excited to see how both of my new sets do!!!

      And yes, I’m seeing readers too checking between $2.99 and $4.99.

      What I think is happening with 99 Cents is that readers are realizing that some of their fave TradiPub Authors now have limited time deals at 99 Cents and $1.99, so they’re watching for those recognized names too…which means 99 Cents is no longer the stand-out visibility maker it once was…’cause everybody is doing it.

  3. Sheri says:

    Hi D.D.,

    Thanks for another great post. I admire you in so many ways and your new pricing strategy sounds like a good plan. I appreciate getting your take on the new ‘best-selling’ price point being $1.99, rather than .99. You’ve got enough product out there, and sales numbers, to know what you’re talking about, so I’ll take your word for it.

    Best of luck with fantastic sales in 2013!

    • D.D. Scott says:

      Thanks so very much, Sheri!!!

      I do spend a bunch of time studying the numbers each quarter and try to see the overall trends.

      There are more and more offerings at $1.99, especially in TradiPub Books. But some of them are even trying 99 Cents too.

      The biggest change I saw was that, in general (and of course there are a few exceptions…for example, authors who are both Tradi and Indie Epubbed) , Visibility at 99 Cents is going just to the big name Tradi Pubs who are experimenting with 99 Cents and $1.99. Especially at B&N!

  4. Sibel Hodge says:

    Yep, you’re definitely right about Amazon’s algos changing for the worse. Sales dropped drastically in Sept for me and many other authors and mine haven’t recovered. I’m hoping the Xmas rush will get things moving again, but I think the Zon is definitely favouring trad-pubbed books at the moment. :(

    • D.D. Scott says:

      I think so too, Sibel. My sales are beginning to build substantially again now, but wow August and September were really slow.

      I’m also seeing this at B&N. It used to be that each week, when they’d send out their member emails, they were full of Indies (my books included). Not so much now. It’s the TradiPubs or those who are both Tradi and Indie. ***Note: And it’s not about sales or rankings. Because I have books that are ranked higher and selling more now than when they were mentioned before.

  5. Hi D.D., I’ve been pricing my backlist titles at $3.29. My original titles are priced at between $3.49 and $4.79, depending on length. The latter price is for a book that’s about 120K words that sold quite well. I feel that the investment I make in my books (having them edited, purchasing cover art, and having the covers designed) and their length makes the pricing fair, and still a value over traditionally published books (books under Harlequin’s Kimani line are generally about $4.60 and are much shorter).

    This is my question: How does one go about offering an eBook free across all platforms? I am offering on title free, but can only do it on Smashwords.

    • D.D. Scott says:

      Here’s the scoop on trying to go FREE across all platforms, Bettye:

      Begin, like you’ve done, on Smashwords by setting your book FREE there and having Smashwords send it to all of their distribution channels (Apple, Diesel, Sony, Kobo, etc.). Then, hopefully, B&N will match it. Then, you wait for Amazon to match too. You can push this along a bit by reporting on Amazon that the book is FREE on another platform. But keep in mind that Amazon isn’t matching as much now because of KDP Select.

      You can also put the book for FREE on your own website by creating an online store there. I think the fabulous service Sibel told us about is going to be allowing FREE books soon.

      http://thewritersguidetoepublishing.com/selling-ebooks-direct-from-your-website

      • Thanks, D.D.!

      • Hi D.D.,

        Another great, informative post!

        Question for you: I’m wondering why I wouldn’t just upload my book to Smashwords, but then upload it separately through Kobo, etc. instead of going through Smashwords’ distribution channels. In your experience, is it better to let Smashwords do the distribution if we want to offer a free book, or does it matter if we upload to all the channels separately?

        Thanks, D.D., and keep up the great work!

        • D.D. Scott says:

          I do use Kobo’s Writing Life platform now, Riley, and I really like it. Do they let you upload a FREE book on there? I’m not sure as I haven’t tried that…

          But yes, great point, if they do allow that, I would definitely go direct on Kobo versus using Smashwords.

  6. JamieSalisbury (@JamieRSalisbury) says:

    I too saw a dive in sales in September. I took it being part of kids going back to school, parent’s using all extra $$ towards them. Made sense. . .October was slightly up in sales.
    I’ve priced my books at $2.99 for the newest book with the older books of the series at .99. Too early to tell – but it seems to be working. . .
    I just put out a five book boxed set in time for Christmas, and while it’s not selling hotcakes, it is steady, and I believe between now and the first of the year it will pick up (all those people with their new Kindle or Nooks!!).
    And finally yes Amazon’s been fooling around with things – and yes it does not favor us indies as it once did. Pity.
    Looking forward to see what 2013 brings. . .

    • D.D. Scott says:

      I saw your new Boxed Set, Jamie!!! Well done!!!

      And you’re right, all of the readers with their new Kindles, Nooks and Kobos for Christmas, and new tablets too, will be buying books (especially Bargain Books) like crazy in January and February!!! Last year, my biggest months were January through March.

  7. Angela Brown says:

    Visibility is certainly a big thing that a new kid on the block, like myself, struggles with so that I can get and stay above the 100k mark when it comes to rank. But I’ve also got a backlist to build to help towards that goal. Pricing was and is an issue I’ve had a problem with balancing because I’ve noticed that the higher price of $3.99 for my novel length hasn’t been as popular and in reading your strategy for 2013 I think I see why. Your strategy sounds more than plausible and I do hope it works for you for the future. Now off to work on building my list so I can form boxed sets soon :-)

    • D.D. Scott says:

      Atta Girl, Angela!!! Boxed Sets are total Bliss!!! Just by their very nature you can treat your readers to more bang for the buck!!!

      I’ve built my Visibility, primarily, from three strategies: The First One is On Me, 99 Cent Books (Snickers Bar Pricing vs Godiva), and Boxed Set Bliss.

  8. Alex M Smith says:

    You are such a great strategic thinker DD. A couple of weeks ago I managed to set my first book price at $0.00 across all platforms. Amazon picked it up on Black Friday, wonderful timing, over the long weekend downloads reached 500 only on Amazon. Since it’s the first in a series i think that it will be a very successful strategy.
    I also believe that $1.99 is the new $0.99 and as Indie writers the only way to attract readers is to offer them more for less, three or four books for the price of one.
    Following your lead DD, take us to the promised land woman ;)
    Alex

    • D.D. Scott says:

      I don’t know about the promised land, Alex…LOL!!!

      What I’ve always tried to do and still do is think like the reader that I am too! What price points and products attract me? What will I one-click-buy on impulse vs. what will I have to think about first and why am I struggling hitting that buy button? Which books that I’ve bought do I read first and why?

      Thinking like a reader and making sure your decisions will be good for them is always a winner.

  9. Liz Matis says:

    Thank for yet another great post! My strategy has been for the first month I sell at :99 cents to gain visibility and ranks. Then for my novella I raised it to 2.99 and my category lengths at 3.49 and 3.99.
    I hope to do box sets when i have enough content to do so.

    And for the first time I’m trying KDP Select with Love By Design as an experiment. Despite great reviews LBD doesn’t sell as well as my sports romances so I figured what the heck. I figured I do my free days in January.

    • D.D. Scott says:

      This seems to be exactly what the TradiPubs are doing, Liz…and it appears to be working for them. They’re pricing low for a limited time then raising. That used to irritate readers, but because of Select’s limited FREE days, they expect those “limited time” deals now and roll with it.

      I still think if you can settle into a pattern, so, for example, your readers know that the first month, they can always grab your book for 99 Cents, that will be a treat to them and a nice way to say thank u to your fans who anxiously wait each new release. But, I don’t see that 99 Cents making much difference in visibility and ranking anymore.

  10. Thanks for sharing your strategies, D.D.! I go back and forth on so much. My position is different in that I started later and as you say, certain things that once worked, don’t anymore. I just keep trying stuff!

  11. Adan Lerma says:

    sounds like a smart evolving plan, best wishes d.d. ;-)

    • D.D. Scott says:

      The key word indeed, Adan, is “evolving.” Our Indie Epublishing Journeys are constantly evolving, and it’s never too late or too early to try to shake ‘em up a bit!!!

  12. This would take some logistics, D.D., but has everyone ever considered doing a ‘box set’ with one novel each from a WG2E author? We can’t get our stuff listed for free on Amazon, but perhaps if we all chipped in one e-book we wanted to try ‘free on me’ into a boxed set and listed it for $2.99 or $3.99, as a group we could get our novels to the top of those Amazon rankings where as individually we just don’t have enough resources to hit the mark?

    I want to get Book 1 of my series into the hands of readers so that, if they like it, they’ll buy the upcoming Book 2-5 (whenever I finish editing the darned things!)

    I for one would be willing to donate my first novel to whoever wants to tackle the logistics of putting together a ‘Carnival of the Indies’ boxed set. Any proceeds could be used to maintain this website and if there are lots of proceeds, perhaps some sort of group marketing push.

    Just a crazy idea? Anybody else game?

  13. Talli Roland says:

    Thanks for sharing, DD! I really struggle with pricing, mainly because while the US seems more tolerant to higher prices, the UK is extremely price-conscious right now – with books by major publishers as low as 20p (price-matching Sony)! I raised the price of one of my novels and while there was minimal fall-out in the States, sales dropped drastically in the UK. Sigh.

    I’ll be watching your strategy with interest, because goodness knows, I’d love to find something that works for me!

    • D.D. Scott says:

      I hear ya, my friend!!!

      I’m hoping that by treating readers to my Boxed Sets and really driving them to each one, I can really soar in visibility and sales with those while still treating them to a “book for a buck or less” on average but still be at a price (for the set) that the etailers will promote in their pricing algorithms.

  14. Alison Pensy says:

    Thanks so much for this info, D.D. I wondered what was going on with tanking sales (since September my sales dropped by a 1/3). I thought, at first, it was just to do with KDP Select and Nook First, but your information adds another element that I didn’t know about.

    If Amazon and B&N are back to favouring tradi pubbed novels, doesn’t it make you feel a bit like we are back to being the black sheep of the family again, or the nerds in the playground :-( Okay, maybe I’m being a bit overly dramatic LOL!!

    Mark Coker said the DOJ ruling would hurt indies and was vehemently against it. By my experience and several of the other comments here, it looks like he was right.

    Okay, I need to go put on my positivity hat :-)

    • Hope Barrett says:

      I’m of the view, Alison, that Amazon always had a strategy: that indie authors would do all the advertising to bring new users into the Kindle world and they have. At the same time, many have never seen payment for their efforts. Offering a book for zero gets you zero. And those outside of the US have to hit the $100 threshold before ever seeing payment. At .99 cents per book, that’s not as easy as expected when everyone else is doing the same.

      I recently read a blog where several individuals in the e-publishing industry were talking about pricing. I found what Mark Coker of Smashwords had to say interesting: pricing, he found, was not a factor when it came to sales. Content is what sells. From the perspective of a book reader, I am inclined to agree. If the preview interests me, I will buy the book, irrespective of whether it was $0.00 or $15.99 If it doesn’t: the same applies.

      • D.D. Scott says:

        But…although, I agree that content is of the utmost importance, Hope, it doesn’t come into play until the second book by an author and beyond. First, readers have to find you for your Book One, then like you enough to go onto Book Two.

        What pricing does – especially in our current horrid economies – is get readers to even try you to begin with.

        Pricing does matter, and it matters a whole bunch when you’re a new author wanting readers to take a chance on you! Nothin’ convinces ‘em to do that like “The First One is On Me”.

    • D.D. Scott says:

      I’m just fine being in the Black Sheep status, Alison! LOL! :-) I’ve never been one to run with a pack…I like to stand out a bit! That’s how peeps find you!

      It’s all good! Even though the TradiPubs have now caught onto the fact that pricing does matter and lower prices now sell more books, what they’ll never get or take the time for is really, truly connecting with readers and/or taking good care of their authors. That’s where we as Indies totally rock and roll and will continue to do so!!! Connecting with readers and taking care of their authors isn’t something the TradiPubs can showcase to their corporate boards and shareholders with positive cash flow (those things cost time and money), but we don’t have to worry about that! We can make readers happy one at a time and let them help us find the next one!!!

  15. Hope Barrett says:

    As always, DD, great reading. My question for you will sound stupid, but how does one find the page with instructions on how to make a box-set? Thanks in advance.

  16. Julie Day says:

    Thanks for this, DD. I have been pricing my short ebooks at 99cents each as they are under 10K. I think I will stick with this for now as they seem to be selling (found out today that I have now sold 5 ebooks this month so far, which for me is v good). So readers still like that price for short ebooks. I will price ebooks that are between 10 and 20K at $1.99 and see how that goes. I was really interested to hear what you had decided to do. I hope it works for you. I know your ebooks are longer than mine so it makes sense they are dearer.

  17. LM Preston says:

    I love your new strategy. I plan to do some similar pricing. My new series in ebook will be priced at $3.99 (Amazon always discounts it though). My other series has book 1 at $0.99 since book 2 is coming out later next year I plan on making book 1 free and book 2 at $2.99 intro price. Also, I have another short ya romance which is second in my summer love series and plan to release that and create a box set of (2) of the books for the holidays next year. I play with the prices and see what happens. Thanks for sharing your strategy!

  18. Thanks for the sensible advice and info on the changes at Amazon. Things change too fast in this business to keep on partying like it’s 2010. Your strategy makes a lot of sense. I’m having my best sales in the boxed set, too.

    • D.D. Scott says:

      You’re very welcome, Anne!

      And ohhh yeahhh, every day is a new party in our Indie Epublishing World! :-)

      Boxed Sets just totally rock!!! I can’t believe that just that one product alone will have made me over $50,000 this year!!! Unbelievable!!! I’m tickled to hear yours is doing great too!!!

  19. David Slegg says:

    Hi, D.D.!

    It’s interesting to hear that you are moving up to another price point. I hope the strategy works out well for you. Wishing you all the best!

  20. Hi D.D.

    Wow! After reading your 2-part plan, my plan is to make a plan. Thanks for the inspiration and consistent tracking of your books.

    • D.D. Scott says:

      LOL, Flora! U Go, Girl!!! :-) I’ve found that it does really help to keep me focused and moving towards my goals. Another key is to continue to re-evaluate that plan and make any adjustments needed. I re-evaluate each quarter and more if necessary.