The Fussy Librarian Reader eBook Survey

The Survey

Recently, The Fussy Librarian conducted a survey in regards readers and ebooks. The Fussy Librarian was generous to post some initial data about what readers think are fair prices for a novel length ebooks.

Oftentimes, it’s difficult for authors to price their books. One one hand, authors want readers to download their books and read them. When the readers don’t bite, it can create a sense of desperation. Sometimes that desperation can drive authors to lower their prices to dirt cheap (and at times, free) in order to reduce the barriers of downloading their work. Other times, authors will base their prices on what other authors are doing or what others are telling them to do. In a way, it’s a bit of a scattered approach.

What I like about the survey The Fussy Librarian conduct is it takes some of the guess work out of it. Rather than relying on tidbits of information here and there, it’s going directly to the target market… the reader. What are readers willing to pay? And what do readers feel is a fair price?

Mildly Annoyed

I have to admit, when I first review the results, I was mildly annoyed. In fact, my husband (dear man puts up with so much), listened to my short rant about those who thought all ebooks should be free, and how I’d like to visit those folks’ place of work and receive free products and services. It made me think of the starving artist profession.

Then I had to realize… there are always those out there who expect a free ride,  may not appreciate the effort (or even the cost to produce a piece of work), or think in a way I can even fathom. Rather than be irritated with a bunch of strangers, whom I don’t understand, I should focus on the positive results of the survey… the parts I feel really pertain to the type of readers I’m seeking…

Those Who See eBooks Worthy of Compensation

I found several items about the survey interesting. First, the mode (highest frequency) was the $3.99 price point. For the longest time, I’ve thought $2.99 would be the mark. However, my thoughts on that was based upon the royalty rates. For Amazon, the $2.99 price point is the lowest an author can sell a book, while still receiving 70% royalty. Anything below $2.99 and the authors are put in the 35% royalty category. Likewise, anything above $9.99 puts the author at 35% royalty. However, few self-published authors price above $9.99.

In a way, my $2.99 price point was my projecting on the readers what I thought they’d be willing to pay based upon the lowest it makes sense for an author to price an ebook.

The second item which caught my eye was the skewed results.

Fussy Librarian Survey Graph

Approximately 55% of participants fell in the $2.99-4.99 price point. In fact, almost three quarter of those who answered the question believed $2.99 or more was a fair price for a novel. For me, that’s huge. I’m not saying my books are great or even worthy of the effort of downloading. However, to know that a large portion of readers value the work that authors put into a book (even at the $2.99-3.99 price point), feels me with hope.

It’s true eBooks are less expensive to produce than physical books. After all, you don’t have the printing, delivery, or even same storage costs. However, there are still cost-associated services which go into creating an eBook (writing, editing, formatting, illustrating, marketing, software, etc.). I’m going to go out on a limb and make the assumption that outside of the writing process, most authors would rather not deal with the rest of the book creation process. It’s work… and to be success (or even unsuccessful), it’s hard work.

So when I got over my initial disappointment with those who felt eBooks were unworthy of compensation, I was pretty happy to see majority of readers did not feel that way.

I definitely look forward to the future results The Fussy Librarian has in store for us!

Kindle Unlimited

Now Kindle Unlimited?

Hmm… We had Kindle Select. Now we have Kindle Unlimited. I was a somewhat early adopter of Kindle Select. I did one round when it first came out… I think? I’m pretty sure, at least.

If I recall, Kindle Select didn’t benefit me much at all. I think it made a slight blip. Over all, I think it was more of a wash, since I had to unpublished my books from other sites.

The Great Kindle Select Ploy

Quite a few authors hopped on the Kindle Select bandwagon. I don’t know so much these days. I believe the popularity of Kindle Select was a result of old ways of doing things.

Prior to Kindle Select, there was a period of about a year that Amazon did this free-book matching thing. Oh… it was wonderful. I think I was offering Brandon’s Story for free on other sites at the time. Amazon only gave self-publishers the option to price their books at $0.99 back then.

Then one day, I woke up and found my little unknown book had been downloaded for free 100s of times. I don’t remember how far up the ranks it rose, but it was in the top 10 for quite some time. It was glorious. Even though I wasn’t making money on my free book, my poor, struggling Shadow Cat was bringing in quite a few sales. Not get rich sales, but enough sales to make me smile. 🙂

Later, I noticed I was receiving sales for Brandon’s Story too. It was still free, but once in a while it’d get some paid hits. It occurred to me, that not only was my free book popular… but it also had potential for some earnings of it’s own. So… I put a price tag on it.

And people purchased it! I rode those sells out for quite a few weeks.

So when authors who hadn’t been as lucky as I’d been during those freebie days saw Kindle Select being offered (includes 5 days of free promotions), many jumped at the chance. However, when everyone is doing it, it becomes a lot less effective. Plus, 5 days of promotions doesn’t really give a book a chance to establish itself. Add that to the fact, Amazon started tweaking their algorithm to give less weight to free books, and it becomes a not so worthy system.

The New Game

So now we have this new feature… Kindle Unlimited. It’s actually a part of Kindle Select. It gives readers access to 600K+ worth of books, books which are enrolled in Kindle Select. In the past, Authors were paid when readers downloaded their book for free through the Amazon Prime program. Authors got a piece of the big pie… each download was worth a certain percentage of the pie. If 100 books were downloaded the month, and 3 of them were yours, you got 3% of the pie. Of course, far more than just 100 book were downloaded each month… I’m just throwing out easy numbers. If I’m not mistaken, readers were limited one free book a month.

With Kindle Unlimited, readers can download an unlimited number of books a month. Authors still get a piece of the pie. However, a reader needs to cruise through about 10% of the book for the author to get credit.

Dare Reena Try it?

For those who don’t know. Book promotion is an ongoing thing for authors. If the author doesn’t promote the book (and keep writing), their books get forgotten. Stop pointing fingers at me!

I’ve been out of the game for going on 2 years? Wow! Time flies. As expected, my book sales have dropped DRASTICALLY. I used to stalk the online book stores to see how much money I’d made that day. Now, I check every few months. I still receive monthly royalty checks, along with the notices that accompany them. Half the time, I don’t even bother to see how much it is. I’m lucky if it’s enough to buy my husband and me a dinner (no tip). haha

So when I got the email today about Kindle Unlimited, I started calculating. Should this barely known and forgotten author hop on the Kindle Select bandwagon to enjoy the benefits of Kindle Unlimited?

I don’t know…

What’s This Exclusivity Thingie?

The big drawback to participating in Kindle Select is the exclusivity clause. In order to participate, I’d have to take all the versions of my book off the other sites. Hmmm….

I scrolled through my ever so limited collection. Which book was I willing to sacrifice? At first, I thought Brandon’s Story! Yes… that’s the one. It’s a pretty good loss leader. I started surfing where Brandon’s Story was on sale and realized I also have it packaged in a combo set. If I put Brandon’s Story up, I’d also have take down the combo package from other sites. If I took the combo down, then it’d make sense to add it to the Kindle Select program too. And if it’s there, then Regina’s Story would be there too. Putting either of the first two books meant I’d have to unpublished 3 books.

I didn’t like that. I faced the same situation with the Injustice is Served series. Boo! I also didn’t like the idea of unpublishing Shadow Cat or I Loved You First.

I was just about to throw in the towel and say screw you Amazon, when I saw my unloved Unprotected story. It NEVER garnished much attention. It’s so lonely… not a part of a series… no future… It is what it is.

Snared!

So at last, Amazon caught me. I unpublished all the versions of Unprotected and enrolled it in Kindle Select. For those who have Amazon Prime and you want to use your precious one free book on Unprotected, it’s there for you! For you Kindle Unlimited folks who can download to your hearts content, pick up Unprotected. It’s a short read.

On a  Side Note

As I was visiting my KDP dashboard, I noticed another feature… the ability to offer electronic versions at a discount to individuals who’ve picked up the print version. I enrolled both Shadow Cat and I Loved You First into it.

As a reader, I never liked the idea of paying full price for electronic versions. If the electronic version was the same price as the print or similar, I’d purchase the print. Not that it was more convenient. It’s just that, it just didn’t jive with me… why would a virtual copy be as pricy as a print copy. There’s no printing or shipping involved.

So! For those who have my print version, you can now snatch the digital version at a significant discount. Hmm… let me see… Ah! Yes. It seems I’ve priced my digital version at the grand price of FREE, if you’ve already purchased the print version through Amazon.

I wish I had known that option was available sooner. I would have enrolled long ago. *blows air kisses* Thank you! Thank you, my loyal supporters!

Anyway, I can’t say how long the free price will last. I have moments of greediness.

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$0.99 or $2.99: That Is the Question

$0.99 or $2.99? That Is the Question.

It’s true. I got caught up in all the hype of $0.99 or $2.99. What’s a gal to do? I started my book at the $0.99 level… stayed there for all of 3 days. For the most part, I earned 2-3 sales a day. I was happy with that. People wanted my books. I wasn’t happy with the pricing model of 35%, which earned me $0.35 per book. Yikes!

What’s My Work Worth?

Do I think my works are worth more than $0.99? or $0.35 for that matter? Hell yah. It’s an awesome read (author bias going here). Plus it’s 91k words of blood, sweat, and tears. Okay, the characters did more of that than me… but still. It’s a full length novel. I’ve seen novellas priced at $2.99 and higher. Didn’t my baby deserve at least that?

So, I bumped up my price to $2.99. I earned 1-2 sales the first day. After that, nada. NOTHING! OMG. I’d even put up ad campaigns. Doubts pricked at me. Perhaps they read the sample and thought it was trash. No reviews, no sales to keep up my kindle ranking, no profit. Wah me!

Here’s the thing. Despite my stats at Smashwords showing people weren’t even picking up the sample, I believed my words crap, and no one would buy it. Instead, I should have seen that as a sign of too rich for my blood. People were thinking $2.99 was too much to even bother with the sample of a debut self-published author. At least that’s what I got out of it after I thought it through.

I ran to my husband, as I often do and lamented about my fears of failure. Failure! You’re panicking. Give it some time, Reena. I’m the anxious type sure, but I’ve seen the results other debut authors have had. And many of their works are priced at $0.99. I guess if I wanted to be fussy about the length, I should have produced a 20k novella first for the world. I didn’t. That’s my bad, but I’m not letting my work go down the drains because I didn’t make a smart first decision.

Kait Nolan said in a blog post “When you’re starting out, you cannot let it become a money game.” That’s exactly what I’d done—turned it into a game.

I did some fancy calculating. Let’s say I stuck with $0.99 and continued to receive 2+ sales a day. At a royalty rate of 35%, 2 * $0.35 = $0.70 a day * 30 days = $21.00. Not the greatest, that’s for sure. On the other hand, I had the 70% royalty which came to be about $2.05 after all the nickel and diming and computed to 0 * $2.05 = $0.00 a day. Hmmm? Let’s be generous with myself and say I earned 2 sales a week at that rate. Not saying that was happening, but it could have. So we have 2 * $2.05 = $4.10 a week * 4 = $16.40.

Look folks. I’m unknown. A no named nudnik. Okay, maybe not nudnik, but certainly nameless to most. It doesn’t matter if I’ve written the next great or not. There’s absolutely no reason for someone other than friends and family to purchase my book… or to look me up for that matter. Many authors who stress $2.99 have already established a fan base. That works for them. One day it might work for me, just not today.

Writing erotica already cuts out a large portion of the reading audience. I don’t want to dismiss the rest of my potential audience by pricing my untested work in a range where folks say, thanks, but no thanks. My works are in a situation where supply and demand affects price. I’ve got the supply but with no fan base, little demand. If starting at $0.99 is going to get my name out there, you better believe I’m taking advantage of the opportunity.

That was then. This is now.

I originally wrote that post February 2012. I’m not a writer who is making a living selling my works. In fact, since I’ve disappeared for about half a year, my sales have dwindled from a few hundred a month to a couple of handfuls a month. My prices range from $0.99 to $4.95 plus 1 free work. And since I haven’t been real active these days, those prices have been the same for months… probably a year or more.

Looking back, do I think my prices have anything to do with my sales? Not so much these days. And here’s the reason why. I believe effectively promoting works has more to do with prices than anything. Judging by my sales numbers, I’m not the best at promoting. I’ll be outright with that.

So why do I say effective promoting is the key? Well, because I’ve read some diamonds out there which aren’t doing any better than my works. On the other hand, I’ve also come across some garbage which is doing pretty well. Excuse me… I don’t want to talk bad about the works of other writers, but we know crap is out there bringing in the dough. And we wonder, what the heck is going on? 🙂

Is it price? I think not. Because one of those crappy books will sell great at $9.99 when an awesome book might struggle to get off the shelf at $0.99.

Now don’t get me wrong, writing a good book does help. However, what it comes down to is one of two things:

  • Getting your book in front of the right people who will help spread the word for you.
  • Creating a promotional network which puts your book in front of enough buying individuals who’ll boost your book to visible levels on the chart.

Now don’t ask me how to accomplish either of those two items. If I knew how, my books would be at the top and selling great. 🙂

One thing I will say is this: What works for one author doesn’t work for every author. Add that to the fact that methods become outdated.

A couple of years ago, a writer could offer a work for free and watch the rest of their books climb to the top of the charts. When the free book went from free to paid, they’d also see a significant boost in sales. These days, free books flood the market. They’re not unique, so it takes a lot more than a free book to attract an audience.

So… research, experiment, and good luck!