The Beauty of the .99 cent Price Point

Welcome to another Tuesday edition of the Writing Secrets of 7 Scribes. PJ Sharon here with today’s unlocked secret. I’d like to talk about e-book prices. Specifically, ways to use the .99 cent price point strategy to boost sales, gain exposure, and get your books listed on the hottest advertising sites around.

First off, if you are traditionally published, changing the price of your e-books is likely beyond your control. Additionally, publisher prices of e-books in most cases will set you and your books outside the realm of “discounted” or “cheap” reads since all of those folks in the middle (agents, editors, etc.) need to take a piece of your pie. The average traditionally published e-book is priced anywhere from $7.99-$15.99–not exactly an impulse buy kind of price. Being that there are no print costs, storage rates, or delivery fees to pay, I’m not sure what these prices reflect– other than the publishers trying to make up for a declining print book industry. These prices may not discourage rabid fans of Stephen King, Nora Roberts, or James Patterson, but if you are a new author trying to gain a readership, your publisher may be pricing you out of the market. There is simply too much free and reduced price product available to readers. As such, higher priced e-books are likely going to to have difficulty finding an audience as time goes on. Then again, I could be wrong. The benefits of having a publisher with access to a publicist who is willing to help you get exposure through pre-orders and reviews might just balance out the playing field. (I’d love to hear some comments from trad pubbed authors about this topic.)

If however, you have self-published titles that aren’t selling well, or you have a series that you would like to promote, the ability to give your readers a deep discount can open some new doors.
For one thing, there are several advertising sites that focus mainly on selling discounted e-books. Kindle Nation Daily, Book Bub and Kindle Fire Department just to name a few. All of these sites can give your discounted e-books the excellent exposure they need to get them into the hands of lots of new readers. The caveat is that because there are so many authors trying to get their books in front of the world, advertisers have the advantage of picking and choosing which books they will feature. Requirements are becoming more stringent. Some expect as many as 18+ reviews with an average 4.5 star rating. To further narrow the field, the books may not be accepted if they have been offered for free within the past few months, causing some issues for authors who have participated in the KDP Select program with Amazon.

Lest you feel you are “giving away the shop” with this .99 cent price point, think of how large retail stores encourage consumers to try a new product. They will often give away samples or significantly reduced price items in order to introduce customers to a new product or product line. It’s known in the industry as a loss leader. Even if you normally price your e-books at the $2.99-$4.99 sweet spot for impulse buyers, a drop to .99 cents can expose you to a whole new readership who ONLY buys .99 cent books or downloads freebies. You might take a cut in royalties (from 70% down to 35%) but if it leads readers to other books in a series or gains you a new following, the increased volume of sales and the boost to your rankings can be a sacrifice well worth making.

Now, there are a few tricks you can try to employ to keep 70% of your dollar. By changing the price of your e-book on Smashwords and BN, for instance, and then waiting for Amazon to price match. If they choose to change the price, they won’t change your royalty rates, but as the TOS (terms of service) agreement states, authors are not supposed to offer the book at a lower price on any other distribution channels,so it may ruffle their feathers. It could also take several days or even weeks before Amazon catches up with the new price (a process that can sometimes be sped up by having friends “report” the lower price), and there is always the risk that they could call you out on the contract breach. So far, Amazon has been amenable to price matching strategies that self-published authors are using. One of the silly benefits of allowing Amazon to match the lower price of their own volition is the neat little slash they put through the old price so that customers know they are getting a deal.(See here for example)

If you decide to try a .99 cent sale on one or more of your books, it can help to boost your exposure if you join with other authors who are doing the same thing. Readers will often look for these “group sales” so that they can stock up on “cheap” reads all at once for their summer reading. Indie Romance Ink, a yahoo group for independently published authors has just such a sale coming up this week from May 1-3, called the Book Lovers Buffet, Bouquet of Books, offering over 150 e-book titles across multiple genres, all priced at a very affordable .99 cents each! There are books for every reader available all in the same place and we have a staggering number of authors promoting the sale. We’ve lined up dozens of book bloggers, FB pages, and advertisers all promoting with us. Hopefully we’ll have a good turn out. Check out our landing page by clicking the icon below, but wait until tomorrow if you want to enter to win great prizes. If you stop by today, you can browse through the books, but the prize page won’t be active until tomorrow and there are no price guarantees until the sale starts.bouquet-sale-button[4] Be sure to spread the word to family and friends. Hope you find exactly what you’re looking for!

As for me, both WANING MOON and HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES will be available for .99 cents during the sale. I’ll also be giving away a $25 Amazon Gift card at my http://www.pjsharonyawriter.blogspot.com site to one lucky vistor who drops by and leaves a comment with a valid e-mail address (not to be used for any other promotions).

Contest ends at midnight on May 3rd. Winners to be announced Sunday, May 5th. Thanks to everyone who organized the sale (Clover Autrey…you know who you are), and a big thanks to everyone for passing along the word on FB, twitter, and Goodreads.

What do you all think about e-book prices and the .99 cent price point strategy?

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10 thoughts on “The Beauty of the .99 cent Price Point”

  1. I agree Paula, that the 99cent give aways are good. Free or 99 cents is a practical way to expand your audience.

  2. Great post, Paula, and an interesting dilemma. Do you sell more books for less money or fewer books for more. It’s something we’ve batted back and forth in the group who published the Tales From The Mist anthology. I think, the consensus was eventually that they would rather make money than sell more books.
    Personally, I’d rather sell more books because then, hopefully, readers will come back to buy more of my books later. So, I’ve also got two books in the IRI Book Lovers’ Buffet sale. Here’s crossing my fingers that all of our books sell just as we want them to!

    1. Hi Merry. I agree. The dilemma is one I’ve pondered for a while, but seeing the success of others who consistently offer a loss leader–be it free or .99 cents–makes me think the strategy works. NOTE: It probably works best for authors with a series where you are essentially teasing the reader to gain interest for the other books. If you have only one or even two books out that aren’t necessarily related, it probably isn’t worth it.

    1. Drat! I’m shocked that you don’t have one, Donna…an avid reader/writer such as yourself. You are missing out on so many great reads. Time to hit up the hubby and kids for Mother’s Day!

  3. From what I’ve read and experienced, we have to give a lot of way to gain a toehold. I keep one of my books permanently free and will probably do the same to the first in my other series in the near future. The plan is to then incrementally increase the prices on the sequels.

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