Chapter 35: How to Price Your Book & When to Set It to Free

You might not think of pricing as part of your marketing, but it definitely is.  One of the bonuses to self-publishing is that you have complete control over your price and can change it whenever you want based on how the sales are going.  Before we get into where your book price should lie, I’m going to go into Amazon’s different royalty plans via KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) has different royalty plans based on the format.  For paperback, you’ll automatically be set to 60% with a minimum price of $9.06, but please realize that 60% doesn’t include what they’re taking out for printing.  You can also do expanded distribution where your books becomes available to more readers through bookstores, online retailers, libraries, and academic institutions (for a hit of bringing your royalty down to 40%).  Although this is AMAZING and can definitely help expand your audience, just keep in mind that it just puts your book on a list, and Amazon doesn’t guarantee any extra sales.  It also increases your minimum price to $13.59.

­For eBooks, KDP lets you pick between two different royalty plans.  35% and 70%.  Of course, I would suggest using the 70% in most instances (duh, higher percentage means higher paycheck) but you can only select this option if your eBook is between $2.99 and $9.99.  If you’re writing a long series, I would highly recommend bringing the book down to 99 cents and doing the 35% royalty.  I’ll get more into ‘why’ later… I would also suggest looking at the global market places and bringing the to X.99 across the board.­

One of the bonuses to being self-published is that you have a lot less overhead compared to traditional publishing, as well as the fact you get a higher royalty per sale.  This means that we have the opportunity to change our prices a lot more depending on what we’re seeing on our sales report.

Non-fiction books tend to sell for higher than fiction.  Why?  Because the readers are generally looking for a book to answer one specific question for them, where for fictions the readers tend to shop continuously until they find something they like.  I would suggest checking the top 100 in your category and see with what price you can get away with.  Don’t sell your debut indie novel for $12 when even top sellers in your genre are selling for $8.

I would say the most common price for indie authors just starting out is $2.99 for eBooks and $9.99 for paperbacks.  As you build a loyal audience and start to have more steady purchases, start to up your price.  It’s all about supply and demand.  Once your readers know that they like your books, they’ll be willing to spend more because its quality is guaranteed.

If you can get your book cover artist to make a paperback cover, make your book paperback.  Amazon will produce the books for you.  I’ve done it for my books, and although they’re not the BEST quality, they’re still really good and seem sturdy.  Even if you see you’re not making the paperback sales, I would keep it up there.  Amazon tells its customers the prices of both, and seeing the eBook price compared to the higher paperback price will make your potential readers feel like they’re getting a better deal.

Take advantage of your independency with the price and price pulse.  Price pulsing is doing limited-time price changes for a specific sales period.  You lower your prices for a short time and promote the sale.  Blast it any venue you can find that you’re having a sale.  For Kobo and iBooks, you can schedule price changes in advantage, but you have to go in manually for Amazon.  Be sure to do this a few days earlier than your announced sales date, because it can sometimes take a few days to reflect the change.  Also, don’t forget for Amazon to go back in there to change it back to its normal price once the sale is over.

If you have multiple books out, use the opportunity to set your books to multiple price points.  It’s a great way to spread out your risk and see what works best.  I would definitely suggest the lower price points being at the beginning of your series and upping the price once you know you have the readers hooked.

A question I know a lot of authors ask is “how can a free book make me money?”  Or they think that by setting it to free, they’re undervaluing all of their hard work.  But think of a taste tester at a Publix (or other grocery store… sorry I’m from Florida!).  You try the delicious cheese or dessert for free, and next thing you know you’re buying the whole pack.  As a reader, why would you spend money on a book or series when you have no idea what to expect?  Especially when they can get another book from a big name author that they know they can trust for quality.  That’s why free works best with the first book in a series.  Get them invested in your characters for free, and then they’ll be handing you their money all series long.  In fact, some reports have shown that 60% of readers who buy a free book will go on to buy another book from the same author.

If you’ve recently finished a novel or are about to, and have questions where you should set that price point, comment below and I’ll do my best to help!

Chapter 34: How to Market for a Book Series

Writing a series (or even books aimed for the same audience) is one of the smartest things you can do.  Why?  Repeat customers are much easier to reach than new customers.  On average, it takes three to four books for a reader to remember the name of an author.  And readers tend to shop for new books by author names first.  I’m evidence of that myself, as I pre-ordered both Legendary and Finale when they respectively came out, because I was so in love with Caraval.  Stephanie Garber hooked me on the series and didn’t have to do any follow-up marketing to keep me buying the books.

Various authors, such as Joanna Penn, have also talked about how book sets do better than individual books.  Penn has even said that when she combined a trilogy into a set, the set sold more than each individual book combined.  Why?  Think of when you go to Netflix and are looking for a new tv show to binge.  Do you pick one with only one season or with three or four right there ready to be watched?  The binge mentality of this generation has made it so that some readers won’t even invest in a book series until there’s multiple books available to dive into right then and there.  And don’t forget about branded covers!  Start by thinking of the overarching theme of the entire series, and bring it onto the cover.  Think of Harry Potter and how every book had a similar format adapted for the specific plot.

When you publish a new book in the series, it doesn’t make sense to focus your external advertising on anything but the first book.  You have to bring them into the start of the series, otherwise they’ll look at the ad and likely feel too lazy to seek out the first book themselves.  Advertise for the upcoming book internally in a place where your already existing fans know where to find it – your website, blog, podcast, etc.

Don’t forget about pricing!  It’s good to have a solid, low introductory price.  Free or 99 cents would be ideal for the first book, and then for the second onward pricing at $2.99, $3.99, or $4.99.  Charge more if you see your readers are willing to pay more.  It’s a business after all!

Pick a damn good series title.  Some authors such as Stephanie Garber in her Caraval series I mentioned earlier, or myself in my very own The Freedom Game series, use the first book’s title as the series title.  This is good if the first book title encompasses the series as a whole.  But, if you know the mood of that title won’t fit later on, start thinking.  Think of the overarching plot or, as the wonderful Russo brothers might say, the endgame.  A great example of this is George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.  Each title is then branded to a similar template: A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, and finally A Dance with Dragons.

The description of your book and the product pages should also follow a similar template.  Match the description to the tone of the series.  Zero in one each book’s cliffhanger.

Have call to actions!  Each book should end with a link to buy the next one, a link to sign up for your subscription list, and a request to leave a review.  Also, compliment your series through a short series or novella.  Keep it cheaper (around 99 cents) and bring them into the universe.  Make them fall in love with your characters.

That’s all I have for now.  I hope everyone had a happy 4th of July last week!

Chapter 32: 7 Website Made by Authors for Authors

When I first started writing this blog, I did it to document my story as an author. As my journey continued, I also became filled with the desire to help other writers. Once I made the decision to become an indie author and self publish, I had to do research on the business end of things. With my degree in Finance and background in the business world, I kind of thought I even had a head start. Other authors also have valuable insights to give, and I want to make sure you all know where to go. Other than my own (yes, this is also shameless plug), here are my ## best websites made by authors for authors:

  1. https://www.thecreativepenn.com/ by Joanna Penn / J.F. Penn

    Penn’s website includes over 1,000 articles and over 230 hours of free audio and video. I found her website through her podcast, The Creative Penn (once you’re done with the website, I highlight recommend it.

  2. https://writershelpingwriters.net/ by Writers Helping Writers

    This website comes with a myriad of talented and experiences writers. One of which, Becca Puglisi, who is the author of books I’ve suggested in the past such as The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma and The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression.

  3. https://goinswriter.com/blog/ by Jeff Goins

    Goins has a website that’s primarily focused on writing tips themselves rather than the publishing side of things.

  4. https://www.makealivingwriting.com/ by Carol Tice

    Tice is a free-lance writer writing for free-lance writers. She even has a free customized report that she can email you based on your writing “tenure”.

  5. http://laurensapala.com/ by Lauren Sapala

    Sapala’s blog also likes to focus on the creative side of writing. Her website is best for new writers.

  6. https://www.thebookdesigner.com/ by Joel Friedlander

    Friedlander has articles about book design, book reviews, podcasts, publishing timeline, self-publishing, social media, and more.

  7. http://avajae.blogspot.com/ by Ava Jae

    Jae is author of the Beyond the Red trilogy and also has a vlog.

Chapter 30: 10 Things To Know About Promoting Your Book

When I was in college, I majored in Finance with the School of Business.  Numbers are my other love, and I work as an accountant as my nine to five.  You can’t know finance without also learning about marketing and sales.  While of course that doesn’t make me an automatic expert, I like to think that it’s given me a little edge on understanding how to work the business side of being an author.  I’m actually using a lot of these practices for my upcoming trilogy, The Witch’s March.  So, next year once those results are in, I plan to share what worked and once didn’t.  Let’s get into those need-to-knows, shall we?

  1. It’s never a bad time to talk about it.  For me, this is a hard one.  As passionate as I am about my work, I clam up as soon as someone asks me about it.  Being a writer gives me the shield of not being there to physically see their reaction.  It’s not like actors on stage, that feel the awkward tension when their scripted joke doesn’t get the desired laugh.  I’ve always like that about writing, but you simply have to be vocal about it.  I’m not saying shove its way into every little conversation you have, but be open to talking about it.  When the time comes where something’s said and you think “oh, now I could make a good segue”, do it.  My best advice so you don’t feel guilty about constantly monopolizing the conversation into it all the time is finding a one to two sentence tagline to sell your book.  Get them interested, and they’ll do the rest
  2. Figure out your budget.  It sucks, but we don’t have an infinite number of cash to throw into promoting our books.  Once you set your publishing date, decide then and there how much you’re willing to spend on promotion.  Once you have that number set, look into the different costs of different strategies and decide which ones work for you.  For example, as a Young Adult Fantasy writer, book tours have been known to have success for my genre so that’s where the main chunk of my money is going.
  3. It’s never too soon to start.  The early bird gets the worm.  That stands true for promotion too.  I’m not saying throw all of your money into an unfinished project.  Make sure that your book has its voice first.  But once you know what direction your book’s going in, start talking.  Have that line waiting for you once the figurative sale doors open.
  4. Go to where your target audience is.  For example, Facebook is by far the most universally used social media with almost 70% of adults reporting that they use it – 94$ of 18 to 24-year-olds.  Other good avenues are YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter.  If you want to stay away from the social media outlet, don’t.
  5. If you have a publisher, talk about promoting expectations.  When you’re not self-published, a lot of this is thought of for you.  While that’s nice, that doesn’t mean you just get to cruise through while the agency does everything.  Talk to them about what they expect from you as far as press and make sure you have the support you need to accomplish it effectively.
  6. Get book reviews.  Did you know that a Dimensional Research study found that 90% of those surveyed considered positive reviews when making a purchase decision?  And guess what.  The more reviews you have, the quicker you’ll shoot up that Amazon search ranking.  Search for people who review your genre and apply to have yours read.  Ask family and friends who you know plan to purchase to leave a review.  It’s not annoying; it’s necessary.
  7. If the books a part of an established series, use it.  If you don’t have the complete list of your series in every single book of that series, I don’t know what you’re doing.  Of course when you’re still in the process of getting them published, you’ll have to go back and make some updates.  Do it.  It’s worth it.  If it’s Kindle format, I’d say go as far as to put in the link right there for your readers to click and buy the next of the series.  Make your series a unified social media account.  A one-stop shop for your readers to find to learn where they can keep reading.
  8. Blast it on your website.  If your thought to that was “I don’t have a website”, fix that.  I will say that they are time and money, so don’t make one for every book and/or series unless you have the time and money to, which most people don’t.  Name the site after yourself and then build small sections within your site for each book/series.  Make sure to always include direct links to buy the book once that becomes available.  Besides traditional ads, one way I’ve chosen to promote my upcoming The Witch’s March series is by posting relevant historic facts, as the series takes place over a large chunk of history from WWI to WWII.
  9. Test Your Title.  Basically think of it as an ad or article headline.  This is especially true in non-fiction books.  Look up key title words in your genre and see if you can add them in.  For example, fantasy loves the word “Queen” right now.
  10. Give them a little something extra.  The best example I can give of this is what movie marketing teams thought of for post-theater money-making.  When people stopped buying the VHS/DVD experience, what did they do?  They added bonus material or footage.

Chapter 29: When To Publish Based on Genre

While it’s true that a series (or an author) with an active following has a bit more wiggle room for when they choose to publish, it’s an indisputable fact that the timing of when you publish will affect sales.  Yes, most readers have one or two (or three) genres that they like to stay within, but why not have your book published at the right time?  Like in the early summer months when they’re dreaming of their summer vacations?  Or if your audience is YA, giving them self-help non-fiction for when they realize they get back into the mind-set of school?  Or a self-help book when the new year is starting and they have resolutions to keep?  Or even a cook book they decide they need because they’re trying to be healthy again?

Please notice that there’s some wiggle room of when to publish.  Also, please note that if you’re doing a series, when to publish the sequel and so on should rely more heavily on when the first is published than the month.  Also, please recognize that in addition to some genres appearing in more than one month, some of these items/genres might overlap in reference to your book (e.g. Romantic Fantasy), so when in doubt, choose the stronger theme of your book – or which one  best fits with your timeline.  Below I have the list, including some successful books published during the window:

January (“New Year, “New Me”)

February (Least published month adds to marketing visibility opportunities)

March

April

  • Mystery (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn published on April 22nd)
  • Women’s Fiction (The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton published on April 11th)
  • Design

May

  • Adventure
  • Fantasy
  • Travel
  • Women’s fiction
  • Biographies (Robin by Dave Itzkoff published May 15th)
  • Mother-targeted

June

July (similar to June but quieter month so similar visibility opportunity as February)

  • Adventure
  • Fantasy (Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling)
  • Travel
  • Women’s fiction
  • Biographies

August

September

 

  • Paranormal
  • Academic
  • Political (Change We Can Believe In by President Barack Obama published on September 5th)
  • Fantasy Sequel (Legendary by Stephanie Garber published September 29th)
  • Cooking
  • Debut novel

October

  • Horror (Gilchrist by Christian Galacar)
  • Political
  • Cooking (holiday recipes)
  • Non-fiction (established writer)
  • Photography
  • Art

November

December

  • Children (A is for Adorable by Elizabeth Sarpong published December 4th)
  • Illustrated
  • Quiz
  • Novelty
  • Dictionaries

 

Fun little-known fact is that the holiday season is actually not the best time to publish.  Some recent numbers show that there was about $3.5B book sales made in summer when there was only about $2.5B for holiday gift giving.  With that said, don’t let trying to make all of this fit into your novel stop you from publishing at all.  The best way to publish is to publish at all.