Authors and publishers rely on a number of factors to try to get the attention of readers: pretty covers, enticing back cover descriptions, price points, blog tours, giveaways, Bookstagram, Booktok, the list goes on.
One of the most effective ways is to schedule a sales promotion, with a discount or free book designed to get readers to try a book or a new-to-them author. (Please note: I’m talking ebooks here. Sales on paperbacks is another conversation)
I’ve done sales a number of times, most notably with my book The Breakup Project which I discounted at various times last year, then made free over January. Why? It’s the first in my Original Six series, and I’m working to find readers who like the kinds of books I write, with relatable characters, realistic scenarios, humour, and solid God threads. The thinking is that if readers like the first in the series they’ll want to read on, and buy the next one, and the next one, etc.
This resulted in an awesome amount of people ‘purchasing’ this book, which has since led to daily purchases of the subsequent books in the series. I dropped the price for book 2 (Love on Ice) for a month, then put that back up to its normal price. This past month I dropped the price on book 3 (Checked Impressions is only 99c) and book 4 (Hearts and Goals is $1.99) to celebrate their recent first birthdays.
It’s been wonderful to see readers trying these books – one reader told me she loved Hearts and Goals so much she’s now put the Montreal botanic gardens on her bucket list! (I’m counting that as an author win)
But it’s a delicate balancing act between dropping the price to appeal to a new reader and keeping your books valued so they’re not regarded by other readers as the kind that aren’t worth much (literally). (How many of us have freebie books sitting on our kindle that we haven’t bothered to read?)
Some authors have such large readerships they can charge what they like and people don’t blink an eye. Others have preorder strategies which can range from cheaper before release date to bumping it up afterwards by a dollar or two. I’ve seen other strategies where they’ll LOWER the price after release date. (FYI I don’t do that). We’ve all heard of the permafree book, again designed to get readers hooked into a series. There are all kinds of ideas about how to price a book and when / how /what you should do (for) a sale, and all kinds of other thoughts about how this plays into things like Amazon algorithms and visibility, ‘bestseller lists’ etc etc
Do I think my books are worth way less than a cup of coffee? No, siree. If you knew how much authors sweat and slave (& cry!) over writing their books then you might understand that we don’t love making mere pennies (cents) for a book. (Hello: my time isn’t worth less than $1 an hour) But sometimes if you want readers to try your book then you gotta do what you gotta do, and because so many readers are motivated by price point, then that can be a good way to go.
So let’s chat: how much do you love a sale? Does a sale on an author’s book grab your attention? Does a sale make you buy a book? (If not, why not?) What price do you like to pay (apart from free!) for a book? What do you think is a reasonable price for an ebook? How much do you think an author earns in a year? What kinds of things motivate you to try a new-to-you book or author?
I’ve bought many full priced books because of trying an author for free! I buy at least one full priced (or pre-order priced) book each month and if I see one on my tbr list that is on sale, I’ll often buy that too.
Depending on the length of the book and the price of the paperback, I think anything up to $9.99 is reasonable for an ebook. I usually stick to ebooks at a price point of $5.99 or less.
Carolyn Miller says
It’s great to see that sales have worked to help you discover a new author. And helpful to know which price point helps motivate you. Thanks for sharing!
I have bought quite a few books after reading the one for free!! I’ll admit, I do have many freebies on my Kindle that I haven’t read yet, not because I don’t want to, but because I have other books that I “have” to read, which could be one that I’m editing/proofing, or an ARC that I have, or life could have gotten in the way. I will admit, too, that if it’s a choice of an ebook at $12-$15, and the same paperback is $11.99 to $15.99, I’ll just go ahead and buy that paperback!!! If it’s an indie ebook I’ll pay the ebook price up to $5.99.
Carolyn Miller says
Thanks so much for your comments, Trudy. Yes, it’s funny when you see a few mere dollars as the price difference between an ebook and paperback. I’m with you – I’d buy the paperback too (except here in Australia PBs tend to be pretty expensive – so they’d need to be on sale – ha!)
This is really interesting to think about. I have often tried a new author because of a free book, particularly when there’s a free book offered via the newsletter of another author I read as it tends to be one I enjoy. And then I go on to buy more if I’ve enjoyed the first book. I generally pay up to £4.99 for ebooks by writers I enjoy.
What about ebook subscriptions? Every so often I sign up for kindle unlimited, especially if there’s a special offer, and that can be really good value from my point of view as I can read quite a few books by an author if they’re included.
Carolyn Miller says
I’m glad you found the topic interesting Ruthie (I obviously do too!). It’s good to know this sales technique works too.
I didn’t comment on ebook subscriptions because I personally haven’t yet tried that. I do have a book releasing later this year, Love Somebody Like You, which will be in KU in July (because it’s part of a multi author series) but I’ve always been ‘wide’ with my books (ie, releasing them across all the platforms like GooglePlay, Kobo, Apple, etc) and currently have this book available for preorder wide too. It will be interesting to compare the sales / earnings figures after it goes into KU.
I don’t pay full price for a book unless I have already read a book by the author and enjoyed it. So, yes, free books mean that I have found some super new authors and haven’t wasted my money on books that look good, but when reading them, I find have different values to mine or just aren’t my kind of book.
Carolyn Miller says
Very valid points. Thanks for sharing!
Happy Friday Carolyn! As a retired English and German teacher, I have a $25 book budget per month. On the average I read 3 – 4 books a week. Since I have books in every room of the house and boxes in my storage area and to save my marriage, I primarily buy eBooks, unless they are children’s books. When I first retired, I downloaded more free books, so I could explore a host of new authors. Especially Indie Authors. I taught best sellers and classics in my high school classes, so I wanted to explore new genre and lesser know authors.
After being retired for a decade, I am willing to pay up to $5.99 for an eBook. I cringe when a eBook costs as much as a paperback. For books in German, I am willing to pay up to $9.99. I do appreciate discounts on preorders. And with inflation, I tend to stay away from 99 cent books. Many authors now charge $2.99 or $3.99 which seems a good price for the times. As Trudy stated I also have lots of downloaded book which I haven’t read, since I am on about a dozen review teams. Proofreading books for selected authors comes first. Even though I receive an advanced copy, I usually purchase a copy to support the author. I write over 150 book reviews a year. Best of wishes and happy writing.
Unbeware to many readers, authors wear many hats – writer, designer, editor, advertiser and more.
Carolyn Miller says
Thanks so much for sharing, Renate. And God bless you for your wonderful support of authors! I have to ask, why (with inflation) do you stay away from 99 cent books?
I enjoy it when new to me authors put their books on sale for $0.99 or even $2.99, that way I can try their hook and not feel bad about how much I spent if it turns out that I don’t like their books. If I do like the author I usually always go back and buy their other books, along with future books too.
Carolyn Miller says
Yes! Those kinds of price points can be a good motivator to get you to try their books, can’t it? Thanks for commenting!
Debra Pruss says
I am more of a paperback purchaser. I do pick up free Kindle books, but I am not much to purchase any of the ebooks. I have read some of them on my computer or Kindle. It is harder on my eyes. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless you.
Kristina Cordova says
I LIKE a sale. A sale grabs my attention only if the author has been recommended and I’m too afraid to try a $14 Kindle book and or can’t find it at the library.
A sale doesn’t always lead me to buy a book but it can! I’ll buy a book on sale if I have hear a good recommendation from a podcast or from a friend. Sometimes, if it’s a new author I want to read but haven’t found in the library I will buy a book if it is on sale. If it’s in the middle of a series and the first book is a very high price point I’m probably not going to buy the other book that is on sale. But, I’ll almost always try the first book on sale of a series.
I happened to find you on this blog and bought the Break Up Project because it was one sale (and you were a new to me author!). I fell In love with your work and have pretty much bought and or pre-ordered all of your Original 6. .Muskoka and Fire & Ice. All because I stumbled upon this blog and you had a sale of the first book in your Original 6 series. (Maybe I’ll get adventurous and try your regency stuff one day).
The price point I’m most willing to pay is $1.99 to $9.99, which I think it reasonable. I might be willing to pay a bit more but $14.99 for an ebook will scare me away even if I love the author. Not that you guys don’t deserve that pay however, it makes me crazy that a paper back will often be cheaper at that point. If a book is .99¢ I am probably going to avoid it because it may or may not be quality writing.
I really prefer ebooks and wish authors would always find a way to make them less expensive than paperback, if it’s at all up to them.
I have no idea what an author makes a year but I feel like Christian authors could always make more! I feel like general market is much more expensive and way less worth it, because it feels like empty entertainment. I feel like authors are such a gift and writing wholesome books that bring joy and encouragement are so precious. They are an inexpensive form of entertainment and totally worth supporting. Sure, I could probably get the book from the library, but when it’s an author I love I want to support them financially if possible!!
The things that motivate me to try a new to me author is stumbling across them through a podcast, or even in Prime Reads. This is how I found Roseanna M. White and fell in love with her work.
Lori Smanski says
I love sales. And because I am on a very strict budget for books, I really like sales/free books.