The Lows of High Book Price

A thousand pardons if I come off like a rant. I’m a mashup between J.A. Konrath and Harlan Ellison. I’m a writer advocate and defender of the written word. I also watch the industry like a stealthy Sasquatch. These articles are always meant for Guerrilla Warfare for Writers, my down and dirty blog. There is no BS here. Maybe some inaccuracies. I don’t even like posting these articles to my YA website–no one reads me there anyway. I hope you suffer me well. 

First and foremost, if you are a celebrity author you don’t need to be reading this. If you are an A-list author, pass on by. If you are a very popular author with a huge reader fan base and have a enormous mailing list that draws purchasing customers in like flies, audios. If you have a break-out or bestseller, you can kindly leave by through back door. There will also be some outlier exceptions. This article is not a call to arms for you. You are profitable, consistent and probably comfortably set in the mighty realm of book sales.

If you are new to writing with a minimum number of releases, an old-time mid-lister like me with a ton of books out there, or a new writer launching your first book, I think you better read this and make some grave determinations. It’s unlikely a publisher is going to read this, but I’ve been with and seen too many that need to know what is working and what is not as far as ad pricing. This warning goes double for authors who just don’t care that their e-book prices are going to be placed high regardless. It goes triple (as of this writing) because of the corona virus and the financially stressed atmosphere it has created.  People are buying essentials. As far as entertainment, they are streaming movies and playing games. Who started the the rumor that they were buying books hand over fist? Do you remember when this news was sent out on the wings of doves at the very beginning of the pandemic spread?

I would like you to read three paragraphs (below) which come straight from the keys of most of the advertisers I know and have dealt with. The wording might not be the same but the implications all point to the same conclusion. They don’t want your high-priced book. They want rock-bottom cover prices and freebies. The reason is twofold; Shoppers want bargains, plain and simple. That’s why W-Mart and Amazon rule the nest. Yet the second reason is that the company itself doesn’t want to lose a potential customer. That means you won’t be coming back for seconds if there are flat sales. They are also competing with other promotion and marketing sites that have the same mindset policies.

Here’s my statistics for two YA fantasy/thrillers that had excellent covers and blurbs. Both of these ads were run before and during a Halloween special (the horror factor was quite evident).. Both books were priced at $2.99.

Book one ran for 15 days on a $45 budget. It received 5,391 impressions; total clicks–5–and a CTR of 0.09%

Book two ran for seven days on a $100 budget. It received 10,195 impressions; total clicks –13 and a CTR of  0.13%.

I don’t think I have to do the math for you. Except for the takeaway, which was $145.00 from me and some wide-eyed experience. I later changed companies, dropped the e-book price to .99 cents, and still fell flat–no sales. We could argue all day long about what I did wrong with these two companies. I did not stop there. I enlisted in seven of the companies listed below, with very low, rock-bottom prices. Please excuse my spelling on the names.

Just Kindle Books
Fussy Librarian
E-book Hounds
Robin Reads
Kindlebook Review
Book Barbarian
Ereader IQ
Book Reader Magazine
Pretty Hot books.

Out of my promotions, I received three apologies and full refunds. I think I sold two books from Ent. That was it. I won’t go into which seven, but I did do my research beforehand. They were my best picks. 

Have you ever heard that it wasn’t the gold miners who made money off their digs, but the merchants who sold them the supplies, tools, products and other services? We basically have the same thing going on here, with grandiose claims of the promotion and marketing companies talking about going to the top of the sales charts, breakouts, unlimited exposure and guaranteed results. Results. Not sales. Impressions and clicks are a normal state of business and you’ll see them. What you won’t see are voluminous click-throughs–buys, sales, mullah.

There are many Indie writers who are exceptions to this rule because they have targeted outfits that payoff for them. Might be some trade published out there too. This comes from a lot of trial and error–R & D–and it NEVER ends because the books can go through an insufferable amount of tweaking to fine-tune the results. This happens when an author watches his/her ups, downs and in betweens–the stats that govern peak sales. Self-published authors also get a larger percentage cut of the royalties than the small trade-house authors. Many of the elite Indie authors pay thousands for ads a months, but they reaps thousands plus in return. So it is a revolving door for them–huge investments that garner huge profits. You want to make money, you have to spend it. That’s not my quote, lol.

Look, all I’m saying is be wise and careful with your expenditures. You are going to see, if you already haven’t, self-proclaimed experts that can do all forms of editing, covers, formatting, book tours, pod-casts, trailers, page ads, listings, book-to-movie deals, screenwriting, agent introductions, publisher submissions, blurbs, illustrations, writing courses, query letters, one-on-one instruction, translations, ghostwriting, expedited (paid) reviews, synopsis’s, proof reading, evaluations and all other manner of Internet blasting services. Can you pay for some of these services without losing your shirt or blouse? Sure you can! It’s up to you. But be aware, unless you really need and believe in any of them, you’ll lose out every time. 

I often wonder if we are just giving our books away because the sea is awash with them. So many tens of thousands of books are published each year that the numbers keeps compounding and burying the authors under tons of pixels. Nobody can find you, lest you post on FB that you will commit suicide if somebody, anybody doesn’t buy one of your books before you take that leap. Well, if it goes viral and you were bluffing, it would work. I think you get the idea. Dear gawd, I’ve often entertained the idea.

1. Your deal price should be as competitive as possible (This is a company motto BTW).

“We promise our subscribers the best deals available. The better the deal, the more appealing it is to our subscribers, and therefore the more likely it is to be selected by our editors/readers. We rarely feature books priced above $2.99, and even $2.99 is an unusually high price for many of our categories.(I JUST LOVE IT WHEN THEY SAY $2.99 IS UNUSUALLY HIGH).

“While your deal price should be based on your book marketing goals, pricing as low as possible will entice more readers to download your book. The lower the price, the higher the conversion rate of a Deal. Knowing this, our editors prefer books that are competitively priced, since those will drive a higher volume of reader engagement. They’re also able to select a higher percentage of discounted books. If you’re not selected for a deal between $0.99 and $3.99, consider resubmitting your book for a free promotion, as this can be a really effective way to increase your chances of getting selected.

“Keep in mind that the competitiveness of your price depends on your category. While it’s normal to see a higher priced book in Cooking, for example, prices are usually lower in the Mysteries or Romance categories (THOSE TWO ARE THE BEST-SELLING GENRES, BTW).. Browse through books in your category to see what’s competitive in your own genre. Again, if your book is not selected at one price, try resubmitting at a lower price or for free. Your chances of being selected will be higher.”

Note the last sentence. They are going to select you in accordance with how profitable they think you can be.Sounds to me if you don’t go low enough to suit them, they’ll politely blow you off.

I’ve heard some positive news about AMS, BookBub featured ads, and in a blue moon, FB and Twitter boosters. I’ve used all but the grand daddy feature ad. While these might still show some profit, they certainly aren’t working like they used to. Profit has measurably declined, and I mean this in a general sense.

What does my crystal ball tell me for the future? I can only take a wild stab at it and say that the heavy visual sites like Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and others are driving a wedge between the other competitors. They could be the wave for future book exposure. I know their swords are drawn against Amazon

Anybody have any solutions or ideas about gaining some profitability in this industry? I’d love to hear it. Or any promo/marketing site that has fulfilled your dreams. BTW, just like FB put the whammy on My Space, do you see another FB type site in the future? I dooooo,

Blessed wishes, please stay safe and healthy.

Chris and Christy.  

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