Friday, December 05, 2014

Writing: "Special Price...Sale..."

The after-Thanksgiving sales seem to begin earlier and earlier. Some retailers put seasonal items on sale and immediately mark them down. The whole world seems to get into a buying frenzy about this time of year. Does that include buying books? Maybe.

Print copies of books used to be popular gifts (and should still be). Bit now, since more and more people are getting e-readers as gifts, loading them with sale-priced books is a popular activity.

Which brings us to the question I'm asking today. Writers, do you think it's a good idea to discount the e-book version of your work, in order to attract readers? Or do you see it as taking away the already small amount of money you'll make from royalties. Of course, some writers don't control the prices charged for their e-books--that's a publisher's decision. This is something we always hear from authors who've "gone indie" and self-published their work, bypassing for whatever reason the traditional publishers. But, if such a decision were yours to make, what would you do?

If you want another view of this activity, see what agent Chip MacGregor has to say about it.

I've talked with two traditional publishers about this. One tells me they have figures that show discounting books is a helpful sales tool, another says it doesn't work and their surveys show this. There are lots of opinions out there, and I'd like to hear yours, whether you're a writer, a reader, or both. Leave a comment and let me know.

(photo via FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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7 comments:

Pegg Thomas said...

I'm an unpublished writer who is following all this with interest.

As a reader, I find I am far less likely to purchase a book today than I was before getting an e-reader. With so many free books out there, I can't justify spending money to purchase other books. And that annoys me. Because there are other books I'd like to read! But my inner frugality says, "Wait. It will be free some day." And so, the e-reader is teaching me patience. Is that good? For me, probably. For authors? Not so much.

BK said...

Speaking as a reader, since I'm not published yet...

Yes, discounting or free books is a good strategy--at least some of the time. Like every marketing tool on the planet, it's not always going to work.

I do agree with the McGregor post about people downloading free books and leaving them in their Kindles etc unread. That happens. But people also DO read free or discounted titles.

I'd say free or discounted titles cause me to purchase another book from that author about 40% of the time--IF they're indie and IF they're good writers. I specify indie because I find that traditionally published e-books are still highly over-priced. My budget is very tight so spending $10 or more for a work of fiction that I'm going to read one time then forget about isn't going to happen. I'll only spend that kind of money toward a non-fiction title that I'm going to use again and again.

In terms of my purchasing habits, the authors I tend toward are those who offer very low priced novels (ie. under $5--usually around $3), who have a lot of novels available to purchase (if I find a writer I like, I usually download one book after the other) and who ALSO offer non-fiction work I might be interested in.

I don't think the free or discounted book strategy works for writers who don't have more books readily available to purchase. If you're a first time author and the only book you've got is the one you're pitching for free, then don't bother offering it for free but set a low price because by the time you write and publish another work, readers are going to have to discover you all over again.

The right timing and the right price point go hand in hand.

Richard Mabry said...

Peg and BK, thanks for your viewpoints. And I'll hasten to say that, as a reader I like free books, while as an author I'm not sure I care for price reductions or freebies.
Of course, the publisher controls free and discounted ebooks when they're in control, while indie authors make that decision for themselves. But whether discounting or offering a book free makes an ultimate difference in sales is still something that causes significant debate among writers. I appreciate your adding your comments.

Martha A. said...

As a reader, and a book purchaser, I would say that free books often are the only way I will give a new author a chance other than the library. The library often struggles to get an indie published book in there as commonly. A discounted eBook though, I find is better. I will not buy an eBook at full price ever. Why? For me, it is not a tangible resource. If it is a book I read on eBook and would want to read again, I buy it in print. I have no idea what will happen to the eBooks. I may end up later having to pay for keeping them, they may all vanish, as Amazon has the rights. I won't spend over $5 unless it was something I had to have now. One example was Tamara Leigh. Her medieval series was promoted and the first book in the series was free. The others have had some sales, but mostly they have all stayed the same price. I don't purchase a lot of eBooks, but I bought every one as they were published. I purchased them at the price the were set at. I wanted to read the rest of the story. So, the lesson is, engage your readers in book 1, so they will be forced to purchase the rest. =)

Richard Mabry said...

Martha, thank you for your thoughtful comment. One question that comes to my mind (speaking as an author) is whether the activities of indie authors and of publishers seeking to introduce authors to readers has in effect set a new bar--a low one-- for pricing of ebooks.
As a reader, I don't want to pay more than $2.99 (which seems to be the "sweet spot') for an ebook. As an author, the royalty on that when it comes from a traditional publisher, is virtually nil.
'Tis a puzzlement.

Lee Carver said...

I'm giving free print books through several blog interviews, and five through Goodreads.com for my latest release. Also, quite a few free e-readings have been offered to readers who promise an honest review. All this concentrates on attracting readers--getting past our usual writer circles. As for making it free on Amazon.com for 5 days, my publisher says it works. Somewhat. For a few days.

Richard Mabry said...

Lee, great point--getting past our usual circle of writers. I sometimes think we shoot ourselves in the foot when we confine our marketing to our peers. Thanks for the comment, and good luck on the release of your latest.