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.

Author Spotlight: Patrick French

Throughout 2017, I will be showcasing two authors per month. These will be interviews with the author including info about their current work and ways to follow them on social media. My hope is to bring new voices and talents for you to enjoy and get to know.

In the first of an ongoing series of Author Spotlights, I present to you author Patrick French.


Author Spotlight: Patrick French

img_74824360308305Today I’m fortunate to present Patrick French author of “Fire at My Feet.”

 

Hi Patrick, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Thank you for the opportunity. Not the easiest question but here we go. I have had a few different career paths all interesting and educational in their own respective ways and all related to sales. Currently I am a sales executive for a very prestigious motor dealer on the lower south coast of South Africa. With a family to provide for I currently don’t have the luxury or time to concentrate only on writing, although I am aiming for that to change. I was born in Johannesburg in 1985 and have two siblings. At age ten my life changed completely as my parents divorced. My mother who is originally from England, went back along with my siblings and me. I won’t go too much into that. I did my schooling in the UK and travelled between the UK and South Africa a few times while finding my place in the world, some sense of belonging. Which thanks to my beautiful wife Rebecca and our amazing children I have found peace and purpose.

 

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing since I was ten, I have these books which I have kept over the years which are full of lyrics and short stories. I have always loved the ability writing gives you, the ability to dive into a world that you have imagined and created.

 

What inspired you to start writing?

After my parents divorced I needed an escape. I found that putting my feelings down on paper helped, like a diary of sorts. In turn that grew into something much larger.

 

Tell us a little bit about your current project. Is it a novel, short story, or something else? Is it part of a series?

It is a novel and yes it’s part of a series. The title of my current project is Fire at My feet. It’s a story of redemption and the road leading up to it, although the descent into redemption is much more fitting. It is the story of two brothers, Peter and Michael. After an accident involving Peters wife and child caused by his brother Michael, life changes for the worst. Peter can no longer live with what has happened at the hand of his brother and takes his own life. While Michael sleeps he has these visions of hell, with his brother’s soul trapped for the rest of eternity. Michael believes that he can change that, with no known evidence that hell does exist he still does what he can to get there to save his brothers soul.

 

What genre do you prefer to write in, if any?

I honestly don’t have any preferred genre, I like to write what comes into my mind and what I believe will work and have a solid story, whether it’s love, war or deception. It all depends on the feelings I have and what direction I want that specific story to go in.

 

What authors influenced you?

I can’t really pin point any authors out, that wouldn’t be fair. From the top of my head, I thoroughly enjoy Stephen Kings work, who doesn’t. I also enjoy Robert Ludlum and Wilbur Smith, those are just a few of many.

 

What are you currently reading?

Fire at My feet. Nothing at the moment. I am currently planning the second book of the Fire series.

 

Do you write every day? A few days per week?

Currently only when I get the opportunity. A few days a week sounds about right.

 

Do you listen to music when you write? Does it influence how you write?

Actually yes but only on certain chapters. It all depends on the direction that particular chapter will be heading.

 

How do you think your writing has changed from when you first started?

It has definitely improved. As I have grown so has my experience with life and everything it involves, same as the next person. With everything I have learnt and continue to learn, it enables me for the better, which then gets scattered like words on a page.

 

How do you create the covers for your books?

15095077_951849084920529_8659489120682004202_nMy covers must have feeling. The cover for Fire at My feet for example is the story itself in a picture, in a way.

 

What is your favorite book and why?

I don’t have a single favourite book. I have many. It’s all on the story and characters of each individual tale. I enjoy the Dark Tower series and Dreamcatcher by Stephen King, Then I enjoy Wilbur Smiths Triumph of the son.

 

How do you market your books?

The only way at the moment is on social media, there is a Facebook page for Fire at My feet which I share, thank you for liking it by the way. I share a lot on Facebook groups and Twitter.

 

Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?

As I gather the energy to pull my eyes open I look down. It is very difficult to see; my feet are just a faint outline. I look back up with the smell of fire and brimstone burning the inside of my nostrils, consuming my every breath, making my eyes water which impairs my vision further. I must push on.

I begin a steady pace forward. I can feel a burning wind pushing me back, as though trying to block my way. I turn my head and catch a glimpse of what looks like wings on my shoulders, burning away with the searing wind. The wings feel normal. They actually make me feel comfortable as though they have always been there. I can hear what sounds like the weeping of children, perhaps the gnashing of teeth; the sounds seem to echo all around me sending shivers down my spine.

In the distance I see something that brightens up the darkness. The light it emits resembles that of my brother’s old lava lamp as it lit the walls red, with the wax changing the way the light hit against them. It also reminds me of the nights when Peter and I were kids. We used to stay up telling each other ghost stories, just to see whose was the scariest, or who would have nightmares. Those are great memories, but memories that fill me with a great sadness. I can feel a tear fall from my eye, as it reaches my cheek, it dries up as though it never was.

I carry on toward the light and feel the heat coming from it. I have never felt a heat like this. Suddenly the air around me gets very thin and I begin having difficulty trying to catch my breath. Relax and control your breathing.

I manage to pull myself together, but it still feels like something is pressing against my chest. I drop to my knees and feel as though I have failed. I have come all this way just to fail. No! I shout to myself, I will push forward.

I push myself to my feet and hear screaming and shouting. I recognise it; I remember it. I continue forward and the light makes way for what look like pits of darkness from which the smoke of the tormented seems to bellow. As I get closer it feels like a fiery oven with what seems to contain an unquenchable eternal fire, with a thirst hell-bent on nothing but destruction.

I come to a ledge from where the light and screaming originates. I look over; he is here. I have found him. His screams are going through me, screams of pain, but he is not moving. I am confused and move in closer. As I do I hear a deep trembling voice shouting. The screams seem to be coming from the flames that surround him.

“HALT!” the voice echo’s, so loudly the other noises become but a faint whisper. His head starts to lift, his eyes are as black as the darkest night, yet at peace.

“This is your doing,” he says, but now he is speaking in his own voice.

“Why, brother?”

“I’m so sorry Pete,” I weep.

“Why did you let them burn!” he screeches.

The sound resonates all around me as my lungs and eyes are consumed by darkness.

 

If you’re an indie author, what made you choose that route?

I definitely am an indie author, in the sense of being the creative director of my stories/books, from the very first inkling of an idea to conception then completion and beyond. I must be very hands on with my work. I like to ensure it is happening and being done as the story should be.

 

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Where can we purchase your current book? What about previous books?

Fire at My feet is currently free, I really want to get feedback on the story and the characters, I’m really looking for collected reviews on the site where it is available.

 

Where can we find you online?

You can find me on the Fire at My feet Facebook page which has my email on the page https://www.facebook.com/PFrenchFAMF/ and Twitter @Author_PFrench

 

Any parting words for writers?

Thank you for the opportunity and your time. Go ahead and check out Fire at My feet. You can find it at www.inkitt.com, just search for Patrick French or Fire at My feet. Like the Facebook page which you can find at https://www.facebook.com/PFrenchFAMF/ for more information and any upcoming news on the Fire series.