Price Matters: Indie or Trad Pubbed, Everyone Loves a Deal

I wrote an article for IndieReader that I'd thought I share on my blog in case you missed it.

Anyone who has been paying attention to the news lately knows that—as the result of recent Department of Justice lawsuit—traditional publishers can no longer set final prices for their ebooks, which many readers feel should be priced considerably less than their paper counterparts. The question remains, does pricing effect how well a book sells?  Jeremy Greenfield, a contributor at Forbes recently wrote,  “… we’re going to watch the E-Book Best-Sellers List very carefully to see if HarperCollins’s new pricing impacts best-seller ranking. I expect it will.”

How much to price a book, especially for an indie author, is often a guessing  game. Too high for an unknown author looks presumptuous.  On the other hand, free can sometimes feel too desperate. I did a ridiculous amount of research on indie pricing before landing at $2.99. On an average month, I sell roughly 2,000 Kindle copies of my book, One Pink Line, whose ranking tends to hang out in the 1,000’s. Kinda like a high-school kid hanging out in the smoking area, watching the cheerleaders—in this case, titles that have cracked Amazon’s top 100—giggle and paw at each other as they celebrate their fabulousness.

Not to diminish my sales and typical ranking by any means, because I WORK MY TAIL OFF daily to keep it there, but hanging out with the cheerleaders in the Top 100 is where I ultimately want to be.

I wish it didn’t matter to me. I wish I didn’t care about the rankings. I wish I didn’t feel jealous when I see others books doing so much better than mine, but I’d be lying to you if I said otherwise. Much like Snooki, writing novels has been a dream of mine, and if I can possibly do this for a living and maybe support my family by doing so, then my book needs to wear that Amazon Top 100 crown. It matters. Huge.

A couple weeks ago, I was asked to be a part of a group of seventeen indie authors who were going to price their books at $.99 for the Labor Day weekend. Sort of a group sale in which we would all join together to cross promote each others titles and gain maximum exposure for over the long weekend.
Prior to this event, my book, One Pink Line, has been consistently priced at $2.99 – which in my mind (and quite literally) is not a far cry from $.99. That being said, I realize there is a greater perceived savings at the lower price point. The implication that the reader is getting much more of a bargain by paying less than a dollar for my book.

When I had my book enrolled in KDP Select, I vacillated for the entire three months on whether or not to take advantage of the FREE days they offer. In the end, I did not. I know those promotional days have worked wonders for other authors, but I simply could not bring myself to give my book away for FREE. But when this ‘Labor Day of Love’ opportunity came my way, I thought it would be a great way to test the waters of the ‘almost FREE’ and possibly reach my ultimate goal of getting One Pink Line into the Amazon Top 100.

So I priced my eBook at $.99 on Amazon and began doing what I do best: shamelessly self-promoting myself until my eyes bled from the illumination on my computer monitor. Everyone loves a deal, so my amazing network of authors and bloggers were more than happy to share the news. Saturday morning, September 1st at 6:00am I’d sold 13 Kindle copies at $.99 and my book was ranked at #1,645 in the Amazon Best Sellers Paid in Kindle Store. By 7:00pm it was ranked at #536, and when I woke up Sunday morning, it was #60. I nearly fell off my Target barstool. I screamed for my nine-year old son to come look, and he gave me huge grin and a high-five before asking what was taking me so long with his bagel.

I did it.

Thanks to the many people who helped spread the news, I cracked the Amazon 100. And while I spent the next day watching it slide down like a cream pie on a glass window, I have never been so happy to click that refresh button as I was that Sunday morning.

In a matter of three days, I managed to sell 2,178 copies of my book at $.99. Did I sell out by doing this? And why are readers more inclined to purchase at this price point rather than $2.99? My book has 100 5-star reviews; do those two dollars really make that big of a discernible difference to someone?  I think the reason the strategy worked was that I waited until my book was well-reviewed and somewhat widely read before resorting to fire-sale prices. This way, it looked as though the reader really was getting a decent deal. A book with over 125 reviews, and a 4.7 out of 5 rating was being offered up at $.99 – now that’s a steal! By tempting people and lowering my price a mere $2, I incentivized thousands of people that were on the fence into buying it (you know you’ve bought a Groupon under the same pretense!).

My obvious hope was that One Pink Line would hang out in the Top 100 until the price went back to $2.99, much like a party guest that won’t leave until he scrapes the bottom of the spinach artichoke dip with his finger…but that wasn’t the case. However, when I take a step back from my bat-shit-crazy obsession with rankings, I realize that not only are people buying my book, they seem to be enjoying it as well.

They also appreciate a good deal.


  1. I know what you mean about the free days. I just did two free days last weekend, but I didn't come to the decision lightly. Give away what I'd worked so hard to finish? I thought about running it at 99 cents for a week, too, and perhaps that was the better option. Still, the free weekend DID get my book into a lot of hands, and I've had positive reviews from strangers, which is a good thing.

  2. As I've said many times, good reviews matter, and if the FREE days are good for one thing, they definitely get your book out there, and generate reviews. That's great that it worked out for you, Martha!

  3. Wow, congrats! I loved this... it actually made me teary. I'm a huge supporter of you (no surprise there! ;)) so I love to hear people are reading your book. I too often get stumped about what people will buy for $.99 as opposed to $2.99... but I have to admit, when I sense a "sale" on my hands, I often jump at it! I like to consider myself a "bargain shopper". But honestly, books are my obsession... and I will pay whatever it costs to get my hands on one I really want. I would easily pay $10 for your next book when it's done. So, Dina, when will that be, huh?? *tapping my foot* I'm a BIT excited, you know!! :)