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To .99 cents or not .99 cents?


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I got a question yesterday from a fellow writer about how to drop the price to .99 cent on Kindle books. I did a video to walk her through how, but the question is should it be done and does it hurt the author's industry? I don't think so since author's royalties have always been right around .25 cents when publishing with a traditional house. I've seen growth in sales since I just price changed my books. The increased eyes on the books has also lead to traffic in my online store for other products. Mainstream publishers think it's bad, but I think what they see is competition. I guess the idea is if the books are dropped to .99 cents, where is the next drop? Here is the video, with the question submitted by Jessica L. Crenshaw founder of the Spartan City Poetry Club. I put her twitter and website in the vid if you want to check her out.


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Hey Chris I just watched the video as an Amazon Affiliate I earn only 4% on Kindle related products including ebooks. If I sell an eBook priced at 99¢ I earn less than 4¢.  Obviously, there is no incentive for me to promote a 99¢ product, because I can't generate any revenue selling it.  Of course if an author chooses to purchase an advertisement that promotes a 99¢ ebook, then I'm good with it.  

That fact should be considered when deciding to price a book at 99 cents. Because promotion by online booksellers helps drive eBook sales.

Needles to say there are other factors including the author's platform, perceived value of the book, the book target audience, the revenue goals of the author, the production costs of the book, etc.

If you are an unknown, first-time, author who put together a book that required no research, little effort, or minimal expense in the way of production, 99¢ works.  Indeed it may be your only option as few would probably pay much more for such a book.

Now if you are a well known author with a loyal following, you don't need to consider this pricing strategy as readers would be willing to pay much more to read your book.

Mainstream publishers think it is bad because they can't generate much sufficient revenue with 99¢ books to cover their overhead.  Much more goes into the creation of a book than printing, shipping and storage.  You have editorial, marketing (including advertising a publicity), and of course the author needs to be paid.  

Needless to say African-American authors, published by mainstream publishers suffer the most—fewer deals, smaller advances, and less promotional support.  This of course adversely impacts the entire Black Book Ecosystem including booksellers like AALBC.com.

The bazillions of 99¢ books (and don't forget the free eBooks) published by independent authors, have not impacted the Black book ecosystem in a positive way.  Sure there may have been some individual successes, however modest, but collectively the net result has been adverse.


@CDBurns, I also noticed you just put the link to the video, rather than embedding it?  Was this deliberate or are you unable to embed the video?  


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I've just been posting the link instead of taking the time to embed. If people want to click through that's cool.  

I agree about the shortcomings of doing a .99 cent book. For me, it's increased my revenue because I wasn't selling many books at the higher price point. While 35 cents isn't much, books are not my livelihood. I'm looking at the .99 cent pricepoint as a gateway drug. I think people who buy the ebook may want to purchase the paperback at a later date to highlight and check out.

With Amazon Affiliate once you reach 6 items sold for the month your amount goes up to 6% that includes KDP books also. I guess I'm a bit of different scenario because my books are all advertisements on my site so I'm getting both the small kickback from the Affiliate link and the 35 cent which is totaling up to .39-41 cent per book. I was at 3.99 per digital book I was getting about a 2.00 bucks, but the sales were very slow. I guess I have to be honest though and say, I place more time into the sneaker store obviously and that is what hinders the growth on the writing side.

I think overall as you said, it doesn't adversely affect Black books as sales are down across the board... but I've sold 10 books since I dropped the price a week ago. It's not a risk for someone to grab a .99 cent book, but I also sold 4 paperbacks this month. It was a pretty good month on the book side since that is all income I am not working to earn.

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Hummm embedding is easy (unless this is another one of those features limited to admins).  Basically you post the regular (unshorted) URL to the video and hit return. The video is automatically embedded.  It may take a couple of seconds for the URL to convert into a youtube video.  But there is not real extra effort.

Sorry I need to go back and re-read what I wrote, but I think the available of free and 99 cents ebooks hurts the sales of the average individual author.  I don't have data to support this, but my sense is that today we have say, 1,000,000 authors making an average of $500 on a book, when 20 years ago we had 10,000 making $50,000.

So yes, there are 999,000 authors generating $500 they would not have had otherwise earned and there are 999,000 more titles being published, but fewer are earning a living from their books and most of the additional books published are not very good.  Finally, the good books are more difficult to find, because there is less revenue to spend on promotion and advertising and crappy books are often on equal footing with good one and it is harder for the reader to sort them out.

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Yeah I've been doing that with the long url, sometimes it shows up as a video for a split second then it reverts back to a link. Go figure. I really do understand the idea that it could possibly hurt the industry, but for a person like me who runs a business and it's just a stream of revenue that I don't even look at, the new readers are well worth it.

Consider this, at 3.99/4.99 per digital book from December 1st to December 17th I had zero sales on any of my digital books.

On December 18th I adjusted the price of the book to .99 cents. From December 18th to today I've sold 9 books. The Royalties are only 3.15 cents and that includes 1 KENP reader at 19 pages read.

I had an agent before and the big contract over ten years ago and no one could agree on which way to move my writing career. I eventually became frustrated with that and fired my agent and just left the books alone. In my case, I've kept writing and a couple of years ago I thought that it would pretty smart to actually make a move. But the online business took off. Now that I have something of a normal routine I've tried a number of things to see book sales increase, but without any of my own action I've hurt the sales. I needed something that I didn't have to monitor. This is why I changed the price of the digital book. So while it does hurt the sales you know like I do that an author on a traditional contract only earned .25 cents on some of their books anyway. I do get it though and I understand your point.

With the way Amazon is set up now, you can preview a book and get a feel for it as well as look at reviews, so I don't really see the obstacle to the books. What I will agree with is that with the ability for everyone to print the market is cluttered and that does hurt sales.

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Chris I'm not debating your reasoning for going with a 99 cent book--it is perfectly logical and sound business decision that I agree with.

I'm just making an observation on the impact the improved technology and the current business model as had on the Black book industry, which I feel has been adverse today.  

Individuals will, indeed must, make the best decisions for themselves.  It is unreasonable to expect people to behave otherwise in a capitalist society.

So if gas is cheap people will buy bigger cars and drive more frequently; why should they care if the planet is rendered uninhabitable for humanity in a couple hundred years?  If they sacrificed driving a big car, while no one else changed their behavior, it will not make a difference and they will be at a disadvantage.

Any positive change in the book industry can not be made at the individual level.

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OK.  Chris I will make a point of making these types of videos.

What struck you about what I said that prompted the comment.  I know you've made the suggestion before, and this time I'll make an effort to take your advise, but what am I saying that you think other people would want to (or need to) hear that that is not already being said or that I can say differently enough to be worth the effort?.



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"So if gas is cheap people will buy bigger cars and drive more frequently; why should they care if the planet is rendered uninhabitable for humanity in a couple hundred years?  If they sacrificed driving a big car, while no one else changed their behavior, it will not make a difference and they will be at a disadvantage."

This quote is so simple that it's genius. I don't think I look at things from the larger perspective. These are the type of quotes that become memes and I think people like to watch dialogue about how doing certain things actually hurts the industry in the long run. I also think your video as a response to my video would be a good way to begin opening eyes to the issue. I was asked a question on how to change the price of the book.  I think your info would be better suited for why the price change actually hinders the greater market. I can't speak towards it very well because my opinion is based on my experiences. You are more objective though and I think it would be a good juxtaposition (although I didn't really say why I thought it worked for me).

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OK regarding the video and thanks.

When I get some time I'll run a report based upon my websites salese that looks at sales volume, relative to price, over time and compare that to revenue.  Of course my data is biased toward books I cover, but it would be a good proxy for the data Amazon has, which they'd never release, and I don't know who else has enough data, or the inclination, to do it.

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