Indie Author Pricing: Ebooks

When you purchase books, what are you honestly willing to pay for an ebook?

Recently I had a lively discussion with fellow authors who participate in the Heggerwood Showcase (If you don’t know what that is, check it out here). The topic was ebook pricing. From that discussion comes the topic of this post.

Let me start off by saying I am not expert. I’m not a best-seller. Heck, I’m barely a seller at all! However I do have two qualifications that inform my thoughts on this topic.

First, I work in sales. I have for the last sixteen years. I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. I know what a customer is willing to pay, what they’re willing to hand over their hard earned cash for. I understand they need value for their money. I get it.

Secondly, I’m a reader and consumer myself. I know what I’d pay for something. I have my limits. More on this in a moment.

As an author, especially an indie author who has total control over costs and pricing, how do you determine what to charge for your books? In particular, ebooks, though paperback POD books play a role in this as well.

Let me start with ebooks.

When I released my first book (Almost) Average Anthology, I decided the initial selling price was going to be $1.99. Did I feel it was worth more? Of course! We all think our work is worth more and it should be. We spent a lot of time and effort creating these worlds for others to enjoy. However, I had several things to consider.

What were other books like mine selling for? Would anyone plunk down more than $1.99 for a collection of odd stories from an author they don’t know? Would I? Obviously my answer was no, I wouldn’t pay more than that. I also chose the $1.99 price point so I had at least a little wiggle room to go down in price when the time was right or if I was going to run a promo. I could also run a discounted pre-sale enticing would be buyers to grab it for .99 while they could before the price went up. I did the same with my second collection of dark fiction short stories Moments of Darkness.

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Though neither book tops any charts or blazed new trails, I felt justified in my pricing strategy. I wasn’t scamming the buyer. I offered the books at what I felt were reasonable prices. Prices I would pay and felt comfortable with.

I’ve done the same with my novel The Selection. I offered it at a pre-sale price of .99 before going to it’s standard, and higher, price of $2.99. Because it was a longer piece, I felt comfortable with the higher price and it’s something I would pay for an ebook, especially by an unknown author.

I can hear you asking now “What about your costs? Don’t you want those covered so you can make a profit?” Ahh…good question. And this is where I differed from some of my fellow authors.

Let’s go back to (Almost) Average. My costs on that were almost nothing. I didn’t hire an editor. I created the cover myself, and I formatted the ebook myself. The programs I used to create the book were already on my computer. I didn’t buy anything special. So for that book, my expenses were pretty low.

For Moments of Darkness, I did hire an artist for the cover, but that was my only cost. I edited and formatted that one myself as well. In terms of cost/price, I should have charged more to recoup my costs. But I didn’t.

money-40603_960_720When I decided to release The Selection, I hired an artist for the cover and I hired an editor. There was no way I’d release a longer piece like that without having it edited. You may hate the story or think it’s bogus, but you won’t be able to crush me on the editing. So with this release, I had the most cost associated with releasing a book which seems to indicate I should charge a lot more.

But that’s not my line of thought.

Sure I want to recover my expenses, however there’s a threshold consumers are not willing to part with their money. I know, I’m one of them. I’d love to make tons money on my books, I mean that’s what selling is all about, right?

The approach I’m taking is different. I don’t want immediate repayment of my costs (well, yeah I do) but what I really want is a growing base of readers looking for my work as I continue my career. I want long term growth, long term success.

If I priced my novel at $4.99 and sold enough I’d get my costs covered, but how long will that take? How many people are willing to drop that much on an unproven commodity? I wouldn’t. I can’t expect others to just because I have expenses.

Book buyers are a weird lot (I say that with the utmost respect for my readers. You guys rock!) I’m one of you. I buy books too. There’s a line I won’t cross to buy a book. I have a difficult time spending more than $3.99 for an ebook by a big name author like Stephen King or Brandon Sanderson. Why would I spend that kind of money on an author I don’t know? I’m big on supporting indie authors, we’re in this together. But when I feel gouged with a $3.99 price point for something that’s maybe 100 pages long–nope, not gonna buy it. I understand you’ve got expenses but in sales, sometimes you have to go in the negative before the positive arrives. You have to be willing to spend money to make money.

For now, my thought on pricing strategy is this: Get as many readers interested in me as a writer for the long haul. I won’t price a book higher trying to recover all my costs as fast as possible. It’s a numbers game. If I can sell ten .99 ebooks to your one $3.99 ebook, my readership will dwarf yours. That’s what I’m going for–more readers. Do I feel it’s worth more than .99? Sure do! But to the reader willing to part with their money for a little known author, I have to make it enticing enough to earn their trust and deliver on that with the writing. If I’ve done my job well, they will stick with me.

In my next installment, I’m going to cover POD paperback pricing. Come on back for that.


Let me know your thoughts. Am I off base? Is my strategy wrong? What would you do? How do you price your books? I’m open for an honest and constructive discussion so we can all learn from each other.

Dear Reader

Dear Reader,

Hi there! How are ya? Doing good? I hope so.

I’ve got a secret for you.

I love you.

There, I said it. Don’t tell my wife though, she might get jealous. But in all honesty, I love you.

All those hours I’ve spent crafting a story or a novel are spent with you in mind. Did you know that? Did you know when all writers say “I write for myself,” that they’re kinda lying to you? Just a little. I mean we do write what we enjoy but ultimately it’s with you in mind.

I know I know. If we love our craft we should be doing this solely for ourselves. We should do it for the love of doing it. We should expect nothing and be content with the idea that we created something from nothing.

Yeah that’s cool and righteous but really…what’s a writer without a reader?

Without you I’m that guy that always wanted to be a writer. I’d be the person that says “I’ve been working on this story for years. Just waiting to get it right. Or get the time. Or whatever excuse I come up with.” Without the expectation that someone will actually read the darn thing, I’m twisting in the breeze like a sheet out on the line.

But because of you Dear Reader, I can call myself a writer. You’ve taken time out of your busy life to spend it with me. I don’t take that commitment lightly. When you do that–when you share in something so intimate and meaningful to me–you own a part of me. The words you read expose a little bit about me to you.

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Not that the story directly reflects what I want to do or wish to do (I mean there are times when time travel sounds pretty cool) however because I created it, what you read is deeply personal to me.

When you share your thoughts about it, when you’re excited to ask me questions about this character or that story line, I’m screaming inside like a junior high cheerleader. I’ve kept your attention and thoughts long enough for you to care. What an amazing feeling!

And then, when you’re through with my work and leave a review, when you dare click a button and type a few words so others might share in your experience–OMG! It’s a feeling unlike any other.

Dear Reader, you are why I can rightly and confidently call myself a writer. Your time with me is never taken for granted. I treasure it like a pirate.

Argh…welcome aboard matey. I appreciate your stay.

Sincerely,

Jason “Black Jack” Nugent


Psst: Dear Reader, why not check out my newest scifi adventure novel The Selection on Amazon right now? You can even try your hand at winning a free signed paperback copy over on GoodReads. Thanks!

Dear Writer

Dear Writer,

Hi, my name is Jason. I’m not special. I’m not an authority. I’m not a collegiately trained writer (well, sort of). I’m an (almost) average Joe. But I have something to say.

You know that story you keep meaning to write? Remember that idea burning a hole in your skull? Can you picture those characters that feel so life-like to you? Yeah, that. Do you remember?

Why aren’t you writing?

I met many writers this past weekend that said “I don’t have the time” or “I keep meaning to get back to the story” or some other lame excuse. I’m not gonna sugercoat it for you–write the damn thing!

Your first draft will suck. It will. No amount of “revision as you go” will do it any justice. Be ok with this. Embrace it. You must write a first draft in order to edit and revise.

The time excuse doesn’t fly. Do you have fifteen minutes a day? No? Find it. Put the game controller down. Set your phone to “Do Not Disturb.” Wake up fifteen minutes earlier. Eat a faster lunch to leave time for writing. Instead of watching that tv show in the evening–write. You can always find a quick fifteen minutes of your day to set aside for writing if you evaluate what you’re actually doing with your time and decide what can be cut from your day in order to give your dream a chance. You decide what you do with your spare time, not someone else. Pretty soon, that fifteen minutes will magically expand to twenty. Then to thirty, and then till you’re too tired to make any sense at all (remember, the first draft will suck!)

I’ve got a secret for you, and unlike a magician, I’m gonna share. Do you know how a novel gets completed? By stringing together pages of words. Those pages are made up of paragraphs. Paragraphs are made from sentences. And those sentences are made from words. Write one word. Add another. Add a couple more. That’s progress kids. Keep typing. E-V-E-R-Y word you add to your story is progress. When your time is short, just remember every word you write is one step closer to completion. Your story is moving forward.

Get the words out. If you really want to write, don’t say “I want to.” Do it! Add a couple words at a time. Soon enough you’ll have a sentence, then a paragraph, then a page, and so on.  Be ok with the first draft sucking. Just get it done. Then go back and fix it.

Like I said at the beginning, I’m not an expert, but I have gone through this process. All it takes to go from “I want to write” to “I’m a writer” is putting down one word at a time.

You got this!

 

Your friend,

-Jason

 

Lessons In Rejection

I’ve been on a mission this year to send more stories out to the wild, hoping they will find good homes. Like a mother bird nudging her chicks off the branch, I’ve been watching and waiting for them to land.

Last year I found myself consumed by doubt. I won’t bore you with the details or the “oh poor me” post. What my doubt did was force me into action.

I’m accustomed to rejections for my short stories. Considering there are maybe 1,000 or so stories submitted to many publications-per month!-it’s not difficult to see how the numbers stack against emerging writers.

I decided to treat each and every rejection as an opportunity for growth. I asked myself a ton of questions: What did I do wrong? How can I make the story stronger? Is the story written poorly? Do I have a jumbled plot? Are my characters relatable?  Did I send it to the right place? 

stamp-2114884_960_720When a rejection comes in, I’ll revisit the story and address what might be wrong. I’ve enlisted other writers and readers for feedback. Once satisfied with the result, I send it back out, hoping it finds a home.

I keep a running document in Google Docs detailing every story submission, when it’s submitted, and whether or not it was accepted or rejected. The document is lengthy. Every story has multiple rejections.

I’m convinced my years in sales prepared me with the thick skin needed to endure constant rejection. Like in my job, I’ve learned to not take rejection personally. Sales and writing aren’t for everyone. If you intend on being successful, meaning-selling your goods/stories-you have to be willing to hear “no” more than you want but pushing harder for a “yes.”

So far this year I’ve accumulated double digit rejections tempered with one acceptance (I’ll post more about that soon!) If you want to succeed, keep trying. And when you get there, please let me know how to follow your path!


Maria Haskins, an excellent writer that you must learn more about, has an awesome post about submitting short stories. Check it out here for inspiration and a good list of what worked for her.

Cleveland Rocks: The Same, But Different

A couple months ago, my wife, son, and I took a quick trip back to my hometown of Cleveland, OH to attend a Cavaliers game. I really wanted to see LeBron, Kyrie, and Kevin Love while the team was still intact and I’d never been to an NBA game before. We decided on a game against a sub-par opponent (in order to get reasonably priced seats!), bought tickets, and made plans.

I also wanted to give my almost sixteen year-old son a family history lesson. He’d been to Cleveland before, but it was about ten to twelve years ago and he doesn’t remember much from that trip. I wanted him to see where I grew up–to see my old neighborhood, my old house, and where I was “formed” into the person I am today. So much of where we grew up plays a pivotal role in who we become. We can change for the better (or worse) but our lens to the the world is created in part by our surroundings in our early years.

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View of Downtown Cleveland from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I wanted him to see and appreciate what made me – “me.” It will be years before the lesson sinks in. He’s a teenager, my expectations aren’t too high yet. (I know what I was like back then!)

But something else happened on this trip. My city–the city I claim with every chance, the city I root for in the darkest moments, the city I identify with–isn’t mine anymore. Not like it used to be anyway.

Forever my lens to the world will be dominated by my upbringing in that city, but I’ve been gone so long, it doesn’t feel mine anymore.

So many things have changed. New office buildings downtown, Public Square closing off to traffic, and buildings torn down and replaced with new stores and offices. As a drive-thru worker where I used to work so eloquently stated, “It’s the same but different.” It’s still the city of my childhood, it’s still the city of close sports championship opportunities (still hate you MJ and Elway!) but the city doesn’t exactly feel like mine anymore.

We ate lunch in Terminal Tower sitting at a window overlooking the Cuyahoga River and I remember feeling like a stranger. I felt like an outsider. I’d been gone so long my Cleveland existed in my memories. It existed as a series of moments forever branded in my mind, but it wasn’t the city as it is today.

I guess that happens to everyone that moves away from the town or city they grew up in. We move on hoping for a brighter future with awesome opportunities while always leaning on our past for strength and identity.

I hadn’t expected to feel that way. I hoped to reconnect with the city and in some ways I did, but a sense of strangeness overwhelmed me.

It’s still my city. But now it’s different. It’s dynamic, it’s changing, it’s the same, but different.

Guest Post: Pamela Morris

Today I’m fortunate and grateful to present an essay by author Pamela Morris. Read on for her personal experience with failure and how she coped with it. Please be sure to check out her website and grab a book or two. Thanks!


Guest: Pamela Morris

Turning Failure Into The Road To Success

Failure. It’s a bitter, dry pill to swallow. It can wedge itself in the back of your throat. It can make you gag. Failure is never pleasant and it’s not what we strive for.

My first published novel, The Virgin of Greenbrier, was released in 2006. It wasn’t the genre I’d ever imagined myself being published in, erotica-romance, but I was still over the moon at this taste of success. Bound To Be Bitten, my personal response to the whole nonsense of sparkling vampires, was published in 2010. As with the novels before it, it was erotica. I struggled horribly trying to make it what the publisher wanted because in my heart of hearts, it wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to write horror and murder-mysteries. I officially put down my erotica pen and picked up another.

scarecrow_cover_mBlood of the Scarecrow, a paranormal-themed murder-mystery, was the result. The joy I’d always found in writing returned. It was published in 2013 by a new and small indie publishing house. But in 2014 they decided to close their doors. I was devastated and heartbroken. I was back to near zero! Every doubt in the book (no pun intended) came flooding in.

Had I just wasted ten years of my life going through all these steps? What was the point? Who cared about any of this but me? My friends and family? Maybe, but let’s be honest here, they are partial. They don’t want to hurt my feelings, see me sad, or be part of the reason I give it up. I kept telling myself that all I needed was the right person to read something and give me a good review, someone who has no emotional stake in my happiness or misery, A Person Who Matters.

Out of overwhelming frustration and dismay, I gave up submitting queries to traditional publishers and agents. The rejections became unbearable. The idea of vanity publishing made me cringe. It was something I swore up and down I’d never do. Only the lowest of the low and most pathetic would ever do that. What sort of sad-sack failure would stoop to something so abominable? Not me! No, never me!

Yes, me. Failure and those same friends and family and co-workers who continually asked, “When’s the next book coming out?” drove me to it; that and my deep-seeded sense of self. I’m a story teller. What’s the point of being a story teller if no one ever hears those stories? The characters demanded to be heard.

shadow5Once the choice was made, it took another six months to create the final manuscript and cover art for That’s What Shadows Are Made Of, another murder-mystery with overtones of horror and the supernatural, and unleash it to the world. Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon, a revision of Blood of the Scarecrow, followed shortly after. After ten years, I had my first series of book signings in 2016. A third novel, a classic ghost story with a twist, No Rest For The Wicked was released in late August last year and A Person That Matters told me I don’t suck. Slow online sales and the lack of reviews still gets me down, but I keep pushing forward and trying.

norest_frontcover2Why? There’s no choice. It’s my passion. As I mentioned to a fellow author not too long ago, I can’t NOT write. When I am going through a dry spell I get anxious. I even start to feel a little guilty. Like the Lorax who speaks for the trees, I speak for my characters. I am their voice. I am their eyes and ears. It’s up to me to tell their stories because there is absolutely no one else out there who can. As insane as it sounds, these characters chose me and me alone.

This whole concept struck hard while I was working on Dark Hollow Road. This book, classified as a psychological horror, is truly the darkest, most disturbing thing I’ve ever written. Where did all the despair, pain, fear and blind need for revenge come from to write this? I had a happy childhood! I’ve led a pretty blessed life all in all. How could all that horror come solely from within me? It’s scary to find yourself writing such a thing, but I couldn’t NOT write it. That would be failing.

Failure. It can take you down with it, but it can also push you harder. Had the original publishers of my first murder-mystery not failed, I’d not have been forced to seek other avenues. I may not have had to have worked so hard to get where I am, but I’m paving my own road and not all of those bricks are engraved with a big, fat F. I still hope for a traditional publisher to give me the time of day. Until then, I have little choice but to write on without them.

To learn more about Pamela and her work visit pamelamorrisbooks.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

The Year of Me

2016 was an interesting year. It began with the release of my first collection of dark fiction short stories (Almost) Average Anthology.

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At the Book House in St.Louis – my first book signing!

For those that have actually read my book, its been well received. The positive response has been humbling. I’ve met many new readers/fans and some that I’ve stayed pretty close with. My decision to create a paperback copy of what was at the time just “an experiment” in self-publishing made all the difference (thanks Dan!) I was able to do book signings and attend book fairs and conferences.

My first book signing at The Book House in St. Louis will always stick with me (thanks so much Ken!) Then my first book fair with the St.Louis Indie Book Fair was a great experience. I met the organizer Mark Pannebecker and fellow author John W. Smith. Mark also organized the book fair side to Con-Tamination which I attended and met authors Ray Wenck and Vince Churchill.

Meeting these authors has opened even more doors for me. In April I’ll be at Wizard World in St.Louis because of Ray and in September I’ll be at PennedCon in St.Louis because of John. These authors have been invaluable to me and I look forward to growing as a writer with them.

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Reading my story “Vacation” at the St.Louis Indie Book Fair.

In 2016 I also started the year as a writer for Sum’n Unique Magazine. The founder and head guy in charge F. Kenneth Taylor has a vision for his magazine that I completely understand and support. Through him I was able to have my first book signing, first interviews, and more. From my time with S.U.M. I also met fellow writers Lakesha Mathis and Kevin Daniel. All this amazing talent! I wish I could’ve stayed with them but I needed to focus more on my fiction writing and had to step down about mid-year. If you’ve not heard of S.U.M. or their writers, I encourage you to check them out.

In the Spring of 2016 I was also surprised to have one of my stories from (Almost) Average Anthology published on the No Extra Words Podcast. Hearing my words spoken by someone else was an amazing experience.

Of course every year has it’s downside too. For me it came around June when I thought all was going well. In a sense it was going well (and still is) but I hit a bump in my writing. Everyone has critics. Everyone has more to learn in their craft. I was so caught up in thinking I knew what I was doing that when I encountered my first real criticism, it snuffed out my flame of creativity. The critiques I heard were valid and right. They were meant to help me create true works of fiction. I’ll forever be grateful for the lesson, but at the time it made me rethink a lot of what I was doing. In the end it was by far the best thing that could’ve happened to me.

Then in October I released my second collection of dark fiction short stories Moments of Darkness. This collection can be seen as (Almost) Average Anthology vol. 2. So far it’s not taken off as well as the first one but I’m hopeful it will soon. If not, that’s ok too. As I continue to write and new readers discover my work, they’ll have a back catalogue to peruse.

I started 2016 as an unpublished writer and I leave the year as the author of two collections of short stories. I’ll take that! I took my dream and made it happen. I’ve created new connections over the year that have helped me along the way. Not a bad year if I do say so myself! Thanks for sticking with me through all of this. Here’s to an even greater 2017!