Ebook Pricing Wars: Episode 1,209,843

Zoe Winters wrote a thoughtful and reasoned post on ebook pricing yesterday that’s worth the read for all you indie publishers struggling with the pricing question. An excerpt:

I am bolding this next part because if you don’t hear any of the rest of this, please hear this:

99 cent and free ebooks are not glutting the ebook market. They are glutting the BARGAIN ebook market.

If you are selling to that market or you are a reader in that market, it’s very easy to imagine it’s the only market and OMG we all have to price at 99 cents because other people are MAKING US with their low-priced ebooks.

Not so.

My own experience corroborates Zoe here. I almost fell into this trap last year when I considered tinkering with the price of my fantasy novel, THE LAST KEY.

Should I go high or should I go low?

If I go high, I thought, why would anyone pay $4.99 for my book with all the 99-cent/free books out there?

But then I wondered, If I go low, how would anyone notice my book with all the 99-cent/free books out there?

I decided to go high and priced THE LAST KEY at $4.99 (a common price-point for novels with 75,000+ words). Since I did that in December, my sales rates have…stayed the same.

And that’s good. It means I’m getting the same number of sales and making more money than when the book was priced lower. I may not be tapping into the BARGAIN market, but I am getting noticed by a different market. I like to think it’s the LOVERS OF HIGH QUALITY FANTASY market…

New short stories!

I published two short stories as ebooks back in December without announcing it to anyone, just to see what would happen. Would I get sales through sheer discovery, or would my stories sit online in undiscovered limbo?

I haven’t checked my January sales (one of my New Year’s resolutions is to only check my book sales on the last day of the month), but my December sales were a delightful surprise. Seems to validate many indie publishing theories that a unique title, interesting premise, and attention-grabbing cover do more to bring in sales than constant Facebook/Twitter blasts.

Now time for the next phase of my experiment — what kind of sales spike (if any) will I get from a blog/Facebook/Twitter blast? I’ll let you know on 1/31/12.

A Goblin Seeks a Career Change

What’s a poor goblin to do when a life of pillaging, barn burning, and general mayhem has lost its luster? Find out in this short story about Gorko, a goblin who wants to discover the world outside his Cave and Kin.

My attempt to see how well YA e-short stories sell. Verdict — I ain’t gonna get rich, but better than I expected for a short story from a no-name author who didn’t market the thing.

Kindle | Nook | Smashwords (all e-formats)

About Those Probes…

A short story with a humorous and somewhat insensitive take on alien abductions. Harry Hindman has been repeatedly abducted by aliens since he was sixteen. Now, with the end of the world approaching, he finds out just what was up with those probes…

This one is really popular with the Nook crowd. Not so much with Kindle and Smashwords readers. Do Nookers just have a sicker sense of humor than Kindlers and Smashies?

Kindle | Nook | Smashwords (all e-formats)

Thinking of KDP Select? Read the fine print…

Amazon just gave a big fat middle-finger to all the other ebook stores out there with the announcement of their KDP Select program. It sounds great:

KDP Select gives you access to a whole new source of royalties and readers – you not only benefit from a new way of making money, but you also get the chance to reach even more readers by getting your book in front of a growing number of US Amazon Prime customers: readers and future fans of your books that you may have not had a chance to reach before! Additionally, the ability to offer your book for free will help expand your worldwide reader base.

But as with all things that “sound great,” you need to read the fine print:

1 Exclusivity. When you include a Digital Book in KDP Select, you give us the exclusive right to sell and distribute your Digital Book in digital format while your book is in KDP Select. During this period of exclusivity, you cannot sell or distribute, or give anyone else the right to sell or distribute, your Digital Book (or content that is reasonably likely to compete commercially with your Digital Book, diminish its value, or be confused with it), in digital format in any territory where you have rights.

In other words, if you also published your ebook on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, etc., you’ll have to remove it from those sites while you’re in the KDP Select program.

Now this is a brand new program, so I don’t pretend to know if placing my ebooks in it is worth the lost sales from the other online bookstores I use. I’ll wait for all the first-adopters to be my guinea pigs.

But the program’s costs/benefits aren’t the most interesting thing about it to me.

What’s interesting is that KDP Select’s “Exclusivity” clause means Amazon has just declared war on every other ebook store. Now authors will have to think about whether their ebooks will get more exposure/sales from KDP Select’s — admittedly — large marketing mega-phone, or if they’ll do better on the virtual shelves of multiple ebook stores. Many authors will choose KDP Select and give up placing their ebooks elsewhere.

The other ebook stores must respond to this. They have no choice. Whatever they do, though, it’ll only benefit authors. They’re fighting over us and want to lure us into their stores with the better deal. Without authors, they have no product to sell.

Feels nice to be fought over.

The positives of negative reviews

I review small-press and self-published books at the New Podler Review of Books, and I’ve unfortunately read my share of, shall we say, “challenging” books. I hate writing bad reviews. I’m an author, too, so I know how much blood, sweat, tears, love, and butt-in-the-chair time writers put into their work. I know how much courage it takes for writers to submit their baby to a complete stranger and say, “Judge it, please,” and then sit back cringing as if waiting to be slapped.

Peter Hassebroek at LL Book Reviews says authors (especially indie authors) shouldn’t sweat over bad reviews, and offers several positives they should take away from one:

* Something about your book enticed the reviewer to select it over dozens of others.
* Something made the reviewer spend time reading your book, foregoing reading or some other pleasurable activity, such as watching or playing football.
* After reading it, the reviewer cared enough to dedicate additional hours solely to craft a custom review just for your creation.
* The reviewer respected you enough as a professional author to be honest.

A glowing review, while nice to read and share, is useless for your craft and possibly dangerous in the way junk food is tasty but harmful to an athlete’s condition. A negative review, on the other hand, helps you grow by providing clues to what might be missing in your craft, what others may fear to tell you, what you need to hear.

Read the whole thing.

Two things I’d add, though.

First, all commercially successful authors get bad reviews, so if you’re a relatively new indie author, you shouldn’t take a bad review as a sign to quit. Keep writing, improve your craft, put your work out there, and the good reviews will come.

Second, take negative (and positive) reviews with a grain of salt. Reviews can be helpful if they’re thoughtful critiques of your book, offering points where you excelled along with suggestions for improvement. But if all a reviewer essentially says is, “You suck!”, then your only reaction should be pity for the poor soul whose self-worth hinges on tearing you down.

Love letter to Scrivener

Scrivener, I’d say, “You complete me,” but that’s gross and hackneyed. You do, but, well, still gross and hackneyed. I mean, you’re writing software, I’m human. It could never work, my wife would never understand.

The thing is, I can’t hold back any longer. Yes, you’re an elegant word processor, but it’s your single-source and compile features that give me those butterflies. You see, indie authors like me need to send different file formats of our books to Kindle, Smashwords, PubIt, CreateSpace, etc.

Scrivener, you are quite possibly the greatest tool ever for generating those different formats from one file.

There, I said it. I’ll stop gushing and explain.

One file to rule them all

Before I met you, I used trusty old Word to publish my epic fantasy novel, THE LAST KEY, to Kindle and Smashwords. I had to create separate files since Kindle (at the time) wanted an HTML file, and Smashwords wanted a stripped-down DOC. Quite the hassle to maintain two separate files, especially when I found typos and had to fix them in both.

Then you came along, Scrivener, with your sassy single-source ways.

You let me write my novel/screenplay/article in one place. Now, when I do find those inevitable typos, all I have to do is fix them once, then click ‘Compile’ to generate whichever format I want. Done and done.

Compile feature alone makes me <3 you

Scrivener, so far you’ve helped me compile four novels into MOBI, EPUB, PDF, DOC, HTML, and print-ready versions. You helped me create version-specific presets in which I can define fonts and layouts, file types to compile, and pages to include. Once I saved those presets, I used them over and over again for each compile without recreating all those settings.


And the option to choose which pages/chapters to include in each compile? Dreamy.

For example, in my recent mystery novel, ASPECT OF PALE NIGHT, I have three different “About the Author” pages in my project. One for my Kindle MOBI, with a link to my fantasy novel on Amazon; one for my Smashwords DOC, with a link to my fantasy novel on Smashwords; and one for my print-ready version, with no hyperlinks. I also have three different “Copyright” pages specific to each format.

So when I compile my novel in, say, Kindle MOBI format, I can un-check the Smashwords and print-ready versions of my “About” and “Copyright” pages. Ditto for the other formats.

No need to maintain separate files, copy/paste version-specific content, etc. Before you came along, Scrivener, the word “tedious” does not begin to describe the process when I did this in Word for THE LAST KEY. Scrivener, you let me do it with a few clicks. I weep with joy.

What else is there…? Oh, a LOT!

I’d write poems and books extolling your other features, but that’s already been done. From your word processing functions to your outlining tools to the “snapshots” feature that lets me save multiple versions of my work…well, Scrivener, you’re the best writing tool I’ve found since I learned how to type in the 5th grade.

And you’re available for Mac and Windows. How beautifully open-minded of you.

Didn’t quite make it…

My UMBRA CORPS Kickstarter project didn’t make its $2000 goal, but 41 people did pledge $886. Though I don’t get any of that money, I’m humbled and thankful for not only the monetary support, but the simple acts of spreading the word so many more of you did.

I will publish the book, but it might take a bit longer to raise the money to hire an editor/cover artist than I had hoped. My goal is to release the book sometime early next year.

Again, thank you all for you support!

UMBRA CORPS on Kickstarter

I just posted my new novel UMBRA CORPS on Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a patronage site where you make pledges to projects you find interesting. Kind of like the pledge drives you see on PBS stations — for every amount you pledge, you get rewards like t-shirts, mugs, books, etc. The more you pledge, the greater the reward.

I figure a good editor and book cover artist will cost around $2000. That’s quite a bit more than I can afford at the moment, hence my plea for backers. So check out my Kickstarter page, watch the video, and look over the pledge rewards. If my book sounds interesting to you (or if you’d like a character named after you 😀 ), I’d be most grateful if you became a backer and helped me make my funding goal.