Why I Raised My Book’s Price

Have you seen the TV commercial that places items marked “FREE” on a busy street?  The humor is that passersby are suspicious and refuse to avail themselves of the free item.

Each day, I get notices from multiple web sites offering book giveaways. Most free offerings are by indie authors who use the Amazon-promoted strategy to get their books “out there.”  The result is a double-edged sword:  books by famous, traditionally published authors are now commonly offered at reduced prices or for limited-time sales.  I bought Donna Tartt’s best-seller GOLDFINCH for $2.99, and you can find books by Grisham and other million-selling authors for similarly low prices. On the other hand, if famous authors sell their books — at least some of them — so cheaply, what’s a lesser-known author to do?

As I said in my previous post, I stopped doing giveaways because I derived no benefit from them. But how to decide my book’s prices? When they were first published in hard cover by Little, Brown, they were over $20, but I certainly can’t offer my Kindle versions for anything even close — no one can!  So I looked at other books in my genre, which is historical romance/women’s fiction, or something along those lines.

When I first bought my Kindle three years ago, I would dismiss any book below $3.99 as probably not worth reading. Then I discovered a couple of authors I enjoyed in the $2.99-$3.99 range.  Some were indies, some had begun as indies, but were picked up by traditional publishers, and some were traditionally-pubbed paperback originals in e-format.  Now, more and more, I’m seeing aforementioned bestsellers — hard cover originals — offered at sale prices as low as $2.99 in e-format.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I read an article by a traditionally published mid-list author like me. He asserted that we had gone through the process of finding an agent, a professional editor at a traditional publishing house, a copy editor, and a professional formatter.  Although we did not become best-sellers, and our books’ rights reverted to us, we had the advantage of top-tier input.  He felt that giveaways or overly-cheap prices devalued our books. I have to agree that my experience has borne out that theory.  I also noticed something peculiar that seemed to confirm that.

Of the two novels I offer on Kindle, REGRET NOT A MOMENT is $3.99 and NO MORE LONELY NIGHTS is $2.99. They both have mostly 5-star customer ratings.  They were both praised by Library Journal, Kirkus and RT (formerly Romantic Times). And, I hate to admit, they were both panned by Publishers’ Weekly.  The $3.99 book, however, outsells the $2.99 book about 3-to-1.  Maybe it’s because REGRET NOT A MOMENT begins in 1930, an era that Boardwalk Empire, Gatsby and Downton Abbey have made all the rage. Maybe it’s because REGRET is a romance that takes place in the milieu of Thoroughbred racing — always thrilling. There are also strong characters who must overcome racism and sexism in REGRET.

NO MORE LONELY NIGHTS begins in the Mad Men-era and spans 25 years, so is more modern.  Maybe the Mad Men era is less intriguing to readers? My heroine in REGRET is a native Virginian; my LONELY NIGHTS heroine is based on my mother, who was a French expatriate born in Cairo, Egypt.  Most of LONELY NIGHTS, however, takes place in America, and my heroine’s occupation is a planner of glamorous events, a hot line of work just now.  The book is sprinkled with politicians, adulterers, grifters, and some exciting, masculine heart throbs. But my editor at Little, Brown told me Americans prefer American heroines (even though she bought the book). So maybe my heroine’s nationality makes her more difficult to identify with, even though she’s married to an American and lives in New Orleans, then Washington, DC.  Or maybe, just maybe, less credence is given to a book that’s $2.99 versus $3.99.

All I know is this: I went through the multi-year process of finding an agent who sold the books to a prestigious publishing house, worked with the editor for several more months to revise the books, and revised them again after a copy editor proofed them. Then my agent sold them again for translation to German, French, and Spanish, as well as publication in the UK and Canada. Did I become a best-seller? No.  As is the case with most unknown mid-list authors, my publisher did not invest in extensive advertising, point-of-sale displays, or book tours.  The books, however, are professionally put together, high-quality products. I am proud of them.  As I said, the book that is $3.99 sells better than the book that is $2.99.  If any of you have read both, I’d be interested in your insights as to why.  Meanwhile, I worked hard enough on both books, and they have garnered enough great reviews, for me to experiment with a higher price point in the hope that potential readers will believe, as I do, that a slightly higher price MAY indicate a higher quality product.

Both books are now $3.99. One-click below or on photos at right. Also, if you enjoy these posts, please click any of the follow icons at top right-hand corner.

REGRET NOT A MOMENT amzn.com/B00C3PAR1W

NO MORE LONELY NIGHTS amzn.com/B00CJYQB5S

For more thoughts on marketing, check out this link to author Julie Brown’s blog. In it, she includes yet another link to a very comprehensive article with specific book marketing suggestions.http://authorjcbrown.weebly.com/1/post/2014/02/what-every-indie-author-wants-to-know-marketing-secrets.html

8 thoughts on “Why I Raised My Book’s Price

  1. Danielle

    Hi Nicole,
    I really enjoyed your article. I am a writer working on my first full length novel and I’ve been debating self publishing or regular publishing and now I have something else to watch out for. I also agree with you that charging a higher price does give a since of paying higher prices for higher quality. You have to believe that all that time you spent working on your masterpiece is only worth .99 cents or $2.99 etc. 🙁

    Good Luck!

  2. Maggi Andersen

    Interesting, Nicole. I wonder if the reason is because buyers feel a book with a higher price must be a better book. Conversely, I think there’s buyer resistance to books over a certain price $8? unless you’re one of a few bestselling authors with a huge following.

  3. Bravebird Publishing LLC

    Good for you Nicole! An increase of a dollar or two is a good idea. You don’t have to sell as many copies at the higher price point. We price all our e-books at the top range. You can always discount them!

  4. nicolemcgehee Post author

    Well, it’s especially nice to have confirmation from a publisher! Thank you. Sales are fun, too, because I usually get into the top 25 of my genre — last sale REGRET NOT A MOMENT was #2 in historical romance.

  5. Madison Johns

    Interesting idea. I’d love to experiment with that and raise the price of all my books for a week to see if they rank higher or lower. The $2.99 works well for me, but not as good as running a Book Bub bargain book ad for a $.99 book. It helps the entire backlist. I have already raised the price of my novella from $.99 to $1.99 and have sold more books since then. It’s really hard to know what influences reader to buy a book. Great post!

  6. nicolemcgehee Post author

    Thank you for your insight! Michael from Kindle Tools and Tips claims that books advertised on his site do better at $2.99 than $1.99. As you say, though, there’s nothing like a 99 cent promo to boost you into the top 50 rankings.

Leave a Reply