Saturday, 10 March 2012

Pricing experimentation

Amazon's pricing structure is interesting. They won't allow you to list a book for less than 99 cents (although if you enroll in KDP Select, which makes you exclusive to Amazon for 90 days, you have the option to make your book free for 5 of those 90 days), and the maximum you can charge is $200. I'd love to know if anyone has managed to get $200 for an ebook.

But what's really interesting is the way they incentivise pricing within a not-too-cheap, not-too-expensive window. If you price your book between $2.99 and $9.99, you get to keep 70% of  the price. If you price outwith those limits, that drops to 35%. This lets Amazon exert an element of control over the price of the bulk of the ebooks sold on their site, and over what people expect to pay for ebooks in general.

Compared to what an author gets on a printed book, 70% is pretty damn fantastic, and even 35% isn't too shabby. But then of course the overheads are practically nil, so to look at it another way, Amazon is getting 30% - 65% of your sale for minimal effort.

Anyway. When I first listed Halfway to Hell, I thought I'd go in at the bottom of the 70% threshold: $2.99. After all, I'm not a big name author and the cheaper the book, the more likely someone is to buy it, right?

Then I read this excellent blog post from Elle Lothlorien on 'imputed value' - basically the phenomenon of higher prices actually attracting more sales. In a nutshell, if people see something is a little more expensive, they assume it has value.

As someone who has worked for Dominos pizza, and has delivered cold, mediocre pizza to members of the public who then happily fork over about the same as they'd pay for a sit down meal in a decent Italian restaurant, this is something that should have occurred to me sooner.

It does make sense in theory for ebooks. A lot of people are going to price at $2.99 because it's the lowest you can go and still attract 70% royalty. Pricing a little higher (not too high, I certainly don't want to rip people off), implies confidence in the product. And I do have confidence in the product. I don't think anybody is getting a bum deal paying a little more than that for my book. If it's true that a higher price acts as a signifier of quality, makes the book stand out from the crowd, then all you have to worry about is the quality of the book justifying that signifier.

I sold about a dozen copies of Halfway to Hell in the last couple of weeks of February, and I'm sure a lot of those were my friends kindly supporting me after I posted about the book on Facebook. Sales tailed off a little at the end of February, and then three things happened: I got a couple of good reviews on the site, I made all of my books free for a day on World Book Day (bumping everything up the rankings), and finally, I raised the price to $3.99.

So far in March, I'm selling just over a book a day on average. I've now sold more than I did in February when I got my Facebook friends bump. Now, while those are not exactly Grisham numbers, if this continues for the rest of March, I'll have made enough to cover my utility bills.

Which is actually better than I was expecting this early...

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