Booklovers Buffet and the .99 cent Mega Sale

Last week I talked about FREE e-books, and we covered both the good news and the bad news. You can read here if you missed my take on how freebies have changed the landscape of book selling and author promotion. You can also get the scoop on how Amazon’s algorithms are changing to meet those market trends over at Nina Pierce’s blog that was posted just yesterday. Some folks are a bit nervous about what Amazon has up their sleeve next. The conglomerate seems to be masterfully diabolical about staying one step ahead of the curve.

Changes are happening very quickly in the publishing world and it’s tough to keep up, but I just  try to keep in mind, as I’ve said before, that my journey is all a grand experiment. I try a dash of this, a dollop of that, and hope to find the magical combinations that create the perfect recipe for success.

Sometimes you get lucky and hit the market just right, and other times, you put it all out there and find that you’ve missed the boat. What worked a few months ago will likely not work today. The trick seems to be staying fluid and riding whatever wave you happen to be on until the next one comes along.

To quote one of my favorite Disney sidekicks, Dory from Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimmin’”.

I also live by the Marine Corp motto, “Adapt, improvise, and overcome.” I try to do one big promotional event per month and I’m taking opportunities as they come, choosing what I think will be the most effective way for me to move forward and build my readership. I recognize that it’s not just about making money, which means I’m willing to play with pricing to see if it helps with my overall growth and name recognition. 

I’d like to touch on another common cross-promotional tool that has been very successful over the past year or two for indie-pubbed authors—the .99 cent e-book. A year ago, this was the hottest promotional tool out there, and people were making best seller’s lists all over the place in response to those wildly successful sales.
Of course you have to sell a whole lot of books to make any money, but hitting the lists was worth the short term loss for the long term gain of leading readers to your door, especially if you have multiple titles.

 That .99 cent price point doesn’t have quite the same appeal now that there are so many free e-books available and there is a general attitude that cheap e-books may not be of the same quality as higher priced books. On the other hand, readers are having kittens over having to pay 9.99-12.99 for e-books that may, in fact, be more expensive than the print copies. It seems the sweet spot of pricing, according to Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, is 2.99-4.99.

Most readers are willing to take a chance on a new author if the book is for free, but if they are going to pay .99 cents, they would rather pay a few extra dollars to buy a quality read from a familiar author who has a few books available and has gained some recognition through a bunch of good reviews or by being on the top 100 list. I’m here to tell you folks that there are many awesome reads on those .99 cent shelves. Sometimes a bargain is just that, a bargain. If you are a reader, keep checking those .99 cent titles and I’ll bet you find some gems!

I am also still a huge advocate of cross-promotion (look for my guest post on the WG2E this Thursday.) I’ve been part of a few of these group promos and the experience is well worth the effort, whether you sell a ton of books or not. I’ve learned a lot about how to work in a large group, I’ve met some wonderfully tech savvy and innovative people, and I’ve found support among like-minded individuals who all have a common goal.

Nothing to sneeze at, I assure you. Best of all, it’s one more way to get great books into the hands of readers for a great price, as D.D. Scott likes to say.

So, beginning this Friday, June 8th, and continuing until June 22nd, a group of over one hundred and fifty authors from the Indie Romance Ink loop will put their books on sale for .99 cents. The Book Lover’s Buffet was first offered as a holiday promotion back in December. I didn’t make a lot of money on the sale, but I did make a best sellers list for the first time, and it gave me the  confidence boost I needed, to know that I could manage this Indie-pub gig.

When the invite came up to do it again, I jumped. It will be interesting to see how a .99 cent promotion goes with the current buzz claiming the wave has come and gone. My feeling is that I have nothing to lose, and that if I can help some other authors sell their books, reach a few new readers, and have some fun along the way, it’s worth another wild ride. Stay tuned, I’ll keep you posted on results.

Bookmark this page so you can check back on Friday when the Book Lovers Buffet Vacation Getaway site goes live and you can browse the list of over 150 indie titles, all for .99 cents. Be sure to enter for your chance to win some great prizes.

How do you think the trends in e-book buying will evolve? Will readers shun .99 Cent e-books in favor of FREE and higher priced books? I’d love to hear your predictions.






11 thoughts on “Booklovers Buffet and the .99 cent Mega Sale”

  1. Another great post Paula. I agree, its not about making money, but about building your reputation, increasing traffic, wrapping your arms around a target market. You are doing a splendid job. Congratulations.

  2. Your reputation precedes you. 99 cents or more matters when we are talking about who. If there is someone you want to read, it will not matter, if the someone has built their reputation, even only through a blog, the cost will not matter. Free is to get a response for the unknown.

    1. That’s an interesting observation, Gail, and so true. The rub is that as a relatively new author without a large publisher behind me, gaining exposure is a gradual and daunting process. To the people who are currently in my “sphere of influence” I may seem like a rock star…or a pain-in-the-neck-panderer…depending on your POV, but there are a few other billion people to whom I am unknown. Offering FREE and reduced price books is meant to help spread that reach. There are plenty of very well-known authors who continue to give books away, whether it be as a leader-loss to sell a series, or as a way to make it back onto those top 100 lists. The bottom line though, is that the more people who do it, the less effective it appears to become, requiring authors to adapt to the next strategy that seems to be working for others. Sharing information about what’s working and what’s no longer working is an important piece of the marketing puzzle for authors, and believe me, we are all paying attention.

  3. And pricing is just the start, You still have to get out there and promote or no one will even know you have a free or .99 book out there! That is my big weak spot. It all looks so immense to me, I don’t have a clue where to start. Great blog! I will check out some books for sure.

    1. Absolutely, Sharron. That’s why it’s so important to be part of groups like Indie Romance Ink and the WG2E Street Team. Collaboration gives you the manpower to get the word out there about your book. One person alone has a limited reach while I have had people tweet about my book to 20,000 followers. That is an amazing potential for reaching more of my target audience and increases my “Sphere of influence”. As Jack Shepherd said, “We work together or die alone.” Choose one group to belong to and participate with, and see how fast you grow. You’ll learn from others in so many ways it will make the process a lot easier in the long run. There’s simply too much for one person to do and learn to be in this business. It’s another investment of time, but a worthwhile one to me.

  4. I understand 99 cents, really. I don’t disparage at all those authors who make it part of their marketing strategy. Many who do will always outrank me. The problem I have with 99¢ is that it is a sale. If I priced my novel—that took ten days less than a year to produce—to reader for pocket change, it would grate on me because it represents virtually no return on my work. That bothers me far more than giving away free copies. A free copy is a sample. An under-priced sale is an inequity.

    1. I hear you, Dale. When I look at giving up 35% of the profit on my book, it gives my inner penny-pincher a serious kick, but I look at it this way; It’s the cost of doing business and is as temporary as any advertising campaign that you do. The potential return is that you’ll sell enough in numbers to make up for the lost income. And the more readers you reach, the better it will be for your other titles. I can’t stress enough the need for multiple titles to make this promotion worth the effort. And it’s only for a short period of time. The first Booklover’s Buffet we did in December lasted six weeks. That was way too long for me as a new author. I lost a good amount of revenue when the book would have probably sold just fine at the 2.99 price. The good thing was that a lot of family and friends got the benefit of getting the book at a discount. This event coming up is only for two weeks. If I’m trying to resurrect my promotional efforts for Heaven Is For Heroes (which I think is a really great book and has been selling only a few copies a day), it makes perfect sense for me to do whatever I can to get new folks to pick it up and read it. After this promotion, I’m planning to set all my books to 3.99, do little to no more promoting for the month of July while I work on my current project, and just see what happens. I’m hoping that I’ve worked hard enough over the past 8 months that the momentum will carry me and build without my direct influence. It’s definitely all experimental.

  5. As a consumer, for me there is no difference between a .99 book and a free book. I am equally likely to pick it up if it looks interesting. That being said, I’m even more likely to pick something up at that price point if I know it’s only for a limited time. Whether it’s the bargain hunter in me, or the perceived value issue, or a combination of both, I couldn’t say. Actually, I don’t think twice about anything priced $2.99 or under that looks like a good read; $3.99 to 5.99 gives me slight pause, but if I wanted it I would buy it. Anything between $5.99 and $7.99 I would consider, especially if I was familiar with the author. Anything over $8.00 I would most likely not buy, because I would think the indie author was somewhat delusional about how good her work was 🙂

  6. For me, it always boils down to how badly I want to read a book. If it’s on discount that’s a bonus. If not, then I will seek it out at the library and if it’s digital only then I may bite the bullet and spend the money. My time is so limited that I have to really want to read a book before I’ll buy it these days. Even at .99, I don’t want a bunch of books I don’t feel strongly about reading on my Nook or Kindle. I agree with Suze on the maximum $8.00 price point – that is pushing it even for a traditional author. If I’m going to spend that much, I’d rather have a paperback.

  7. @Suze You are the person we are still hoping will buy those bargain books at the .99 cent pricetag:-) And I agree with you and @Casey, If I were to pay $8 for a book, it would need to be a paperback. It doesn’t make sense to charge that for digital, but if a traditional publisher puts the book out there, they still have to account for their overhead, give the distributor their cut, and agents must be paid, so the price gets jacked up. The author has no say in their pricing. It puts traditionally published authors at a disadvantage in the indie-heavy digital market where the average indie-title goes for under $5. Unless it’s a well known and best selling author, those higher prices (over $8) are just making readers upset.

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