My big fat ebook pricing experiment

Just a wee update: my month of cut-price ebook selling has been and gone, and I thought I’d share the figures (if you’re new here, I’ve been selling my debut novel online for £1.99 and decided to halve the price to see what would happen).

  • In June, I sold 90 books: 85 in the UK and 5 in the US.
  • In July, I did 76: 61 in the UK and 15 in the US.

Sales hit a brick wall in mid-July, so I halved the price.

  • In August, I sold 115 books: 105 in the UK and 10 in the US.

A couple of conclusions, then: first of all, price doesn’t matter if you don’t have profile. Changing the price has had little or no effect on my US Kindle sales or on my Smashwords sales. I suspect that part of the difference is that Amazon US doesn’t have as many ratings as Amazon UK, because something seems to happen when you reach ten reviews. My UK sales certainly began to climb when that happened.

Secondly, more sales doesn’t necessarily mean more money. At normal prices I get a 70% royalty, but if you go below £1.49 (before VAT – the total’s around £1.71) the royalty rate drops to 30%. At full price I get about £1 per book; at cut price I get 30p. So how do my figures look if I concentrate on cash, not just sales numbers?

  • In June, my 90 book sales brought in around £90.
  • In August, my 115 book sales brought in around £35.

I’ve deliberately skipped July because I sold books at full and half price that month, and sums are hard. Comparing June and August, it’s clear that cutting the price of Coffin Dodgers didn’t massively boost my sales, but it massively cut my income.

I know price isn’t the only factor in selling ebooks, but it’s the only one that’s easy to analyse with a calculator.

Time for a new experiment, I think. I’ve put the price back up (to £1.71, the lowest Amazon will let me charge while earning 70% royalties) to see what happens. What I think will happen is that sales will slide dramatically; what I hope will happen is that they don’t slide so dramatically that I’m getting 70% of sod-all.

I’ll keep you posted.





0 responses to “My big fat ebook pricing experiment”

  1. Gary

    Looks like my numbers are slightly out, because the Apple figures for July have come in: I sold 41 copies via iBooks.

  2. A wee update: upping the price did pretty much what I expected – sales fell by pretty much the same percentage as the profit increased, so I was making three times more per book but selling three times fewer books. Given that the whole point is to get people reading the book, I’ve put the price back down again.

  3. Not only have I used the phrase “pretty much”, but I used it twice in the same sentence. I think I need more coffee.

  4. Interesting that iBooks certainly seems to be very worthwhile.

    I’ve come up with a cunning marketing strategy: get one of your journo friends to write a Daily Mail piece denouncing the book as vile ageist propaganda. Then when Twitter goes wild with anti-Daily Mail loathing, sales will soar!

  5. Gary

    Heh. I don’t know how representative the ibooks thing is, though, because of course I write about Mac stuff for a living so there may be a profile there that other iBooks writers don’t have. I honestly don’t know.

  6. Don’t know if you’ve seen this, but it’s quite interesting in terms of targeting the various bestseller lists:

    Maximising Digital Book Sales

  7. Hunnymonster

    Genius! Wonder how we can make it happen for you so it can’t be traced back? :)

  8. Gary

    Easy! Just get Johann Hari to write it.

  9. Gary

    Hadn’t seen that, thanks.

    I think the internal sales are essential. Whenever Coffin Dodgers gets into a top 100, sales chug along nicely; if it drops out, sales stop altogether. It’s clearly a very powerful engine for selling things.

    Which is terrible news if you’re writing straightforward police procedural crime thrillers with white, straight, British detectives, I suspect.

  10. Gary

    This is what I mean, from today:

    #1,757 Paid in Kindle Store
    #52 in Books > Fiction > Humour
    #74 in Kindle Store > Books > Humour

    It’s self-perpetuating, for a while at least: if it drops out of those two charts, the overall ranking will plummet. If it gets back in again, they’ll go up.

    That 1,757, incidentally, is my highest ever ranking in the Kindle store. I’ve been higher in individual charts, but not the main one.

  11. That’s actually a pretty good overall ranking. But as you say, thrillers are the hardest to crack due to the massive competition. Might be worth trying to find some of the “unlisted” top-100 lists and see what tags they might have used to get into them. What lists do Brookmyre, Hiaasen etc dominate?

  12. Gary

    They don’t seem to appear on any unusual lists that I can see.

  13. Can’t see any on the UK store either. Maybe it’s a feature of the US Kindle store, which seems to have a bazillion more e-books than the UK one.

    Anyway, I guess you now know that Matt’s new sidekick in the next book has to be a green-skinned transgendered lesbian space alien vampire.