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Ebooks don’t sell on Saturdays: some tentative conclusions from my online adventures so far

I sold my 251st copy of Coffin Dodgers this morning, and I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve discovered so far.

The first and most obvious thing is how important price appears to be: after the initial momentum wears off, sales plummet if you’re pricing at £1.99 (there are other factors – Amazon did a big money-off thing on mainstream Kindle books, which killed sales; this time of year a lot of UK people are away – but I think price was the main thing).

It looks like 99p is the rate the market expects for an ebook by an unknown author, which is unfortunate: cutting your price to meet that means you drop down to a lower royalty rate (35% instead of 70%). Sell at 99p and your royalty is £0.30 per book; at £1.99 you get £1.19.

If you’re self-publishing, then, there’s an interesting bet you have to make. At 99p per book, I’d need to sell 3,333 books to make £1,000. At £1.99, I’d only need to sell 840. So do you bet on volume, or margin?

What happens if you price between the two points? If £1.99 is insanely, ridiculously expensive for an ebook, what about £1.49?

This is particularly important if, like me, you aren’t flogging a whole bunch of titles simultaneously: I can’t give away Coffin Dodgers in the hope it’ll sell extra copies of Coffin Dodgers 2, because I haven’t written that yet (and might not for a while. I’m working on something else). Pricing at £0.99 has worked in terms of numbers, but would I make slightly more cash from slightly fewer sales if I went for £1.49, which is the lowest price you can set and still get a 70% royalty (about 90p per book)? By pricing at 99p, am I falling into the trap of saying “buy it because it’s cheap” instead of “buy it because it’s good”?

I’ve no idea. I think I’ll try £1.49 and see what happens.

A few other observations: Saturday is the worst day for selling ebooks – it’s a real-world shopping day, not an online one – and reviews, recommendations and Facebook links make a huge difference.

Getting Amazon user reviews is a big help too: something appears to happen when you hit ten reviews, which I suspect is when your book starts appearing in the various “you might also be interested in…” cross-selling things Amazon offers. It’s very annoying that UK reviews don’t automatically appear in the US site – I suspect that’s partly why I’ve sold bugger-all books in the US, although it’s possible that the lack of localisation (using Z instead of S, Center instead of Centre etc) is a factor too.

As you probably guessed, Kindle is where it’s at. Smashwords is fine as a distributor but (IMO) useless as a retailer, and the sites it does publish to take an eternity to list your titles too. Of my various sales, only ten have come via Smashwords and the services it works with (eight via Smashwords itself and two via Apple’s iBooks). I don’t think I’ve quite scratched the surface of Kindle promotion either: the people who’ve done serious numbers tend to spend serious amounts of time hanging around Kindle boards and similar forums. I’d love to know how they find the time.

Anything I’ve not covered that you’d like to know? Ask away…