22 October 2012

Pricing of E-Books

So, I figured I'd had enough books around and at multiple prices over the last few years, so figured it was about time to get together some statistics for general consumption. So here goes:

First, I'll be separating these out by both year (2011 and 2012), and by distributor (Amazon and Smashwords...although the Smashwords numbers will be compiled from B&N, Kobo, etc.). Also, this will only include my self-published titles, where I have complete visibility on which books sold when, and at what price.

For all of 2011 on Smashwords, I had one short novel (Seeker), and for about five months, I had one full-length novel (The Cure). For the short, it was priced at 99 cents for the entire year, and sold 15 copies. Of the five months the novel was available, it was priced at 99 cents for about two months, and $2.99 for the remaining three. It sold 3 copies during that 99-cent month, and 5 copies in the remaining time.

For all of 2011 on Amazon, the prices for each title were set at the same levels. I sold 22 copies of Seeker, 2 copies of The Cure at 99 cents and 1 copy at $2.99.

For the year-to-date of 2012, I added a few more titles. Namely, two additional short story collections (one for the entire year and the other since July, though this was solely on Amazon until the past few weeks) and an extra novel (since March). I tended to keep the prices of the shorts the same across the board, and the prices of the novels the same as the other, even when I changed things up. In this year, I decided to do a little more experimentation, and raised the prices of my shorter works to $1.99 for two months (out of ten), and 99 cents for the remaining eight. For the novels, I limited the 99-cent promotion to a month or so, but had two months at a $3.99 price point (right around the release of , and three months at a $4.99 price point. The remaining months were at a $2.99 price.

For all of 2012 on Smashwords, I sold 6 shorts at 99 cents, and nothing at the $1.99 price point. For the novels, I sold 16 copies at the 99 price point, 11 copies at $2.99, 4 copies at $3.99 and 0 copies at $4.99.

For all of 2012 on Amazon, I sold 3 copies at 99 cents, 5 copies at $2.99, 16 copies at $3.99 (to be fair, many of these were at the release of Death Brings Victory), and 2 copies at $4.99.

Now for the analysis, which will be tricky for many reasons. As mentioned, I had a huge spike of sales at the release of my latest novel, so the price I selected then may not have acted as a deterrent as it may have later down the road.

That said, I see the following trends:

E-books have gained in popularity, year over year. I see this more in the case of my novels (which may also be because I have been growing my backlog, and with each new release, more readers can buy more of my past titles). However, when 2012 had four times as many sales than 2011 on Smashwords, and over eight times on Amazon, you can definitely see the trend is turning digital.

It would seem, if you pro-rate the short story sales based on the number of months the books were set at a higher pricing point (2 months vs. the remaining 8 months of 2012), that (at least Amazon) readers are willing to pay either 99 cents or $1.99 for their  shorter titles. I will asterisk this with the fact that the $1.99 sales were directly following my free-giveaway done as part of the KDP Select program, so it may in fact be an anomaly where people had already seen an entire work for free, and were willing to pay a little extra as a bit of 2-for-1 action. Since there were no sales via Smashwords at the higher price, this leads me to conclude that a 99-cent sales price is still the way to go for shorter works.

One thing not immediately evident from the facts and figures given already is that prices need to be kept steady for some time. Of the 16 Smashwords sales in 2012, 14 were done when the 99-cent price was kept around for multiple months, while only 2 were made when the price was only kept as a "special promotion" for a single month.

Truly, it would seem that pricing really doesn't have as much impact on novels as one would think, though the results tend to depend on which outlet readers are buying from. Discounting the boost of $3.99 sales on Amazon at the release of my third Aston novel, and pro-rating sales based on the time of a particular price, I see a general trend of staying about the same across most of the price points.

Unlike other authors, I still see a general trend of novel sales being about equal between Amazon and Smashwords. Short stories, though, Amazon definitely has an advantage. Perhaps I was too hasty in pulling myself out of the KDP Select program after all...

If you'd like to discuss the results, or let me know your thoughts, feel free in the comments!


  1. My sale also suggest that readers are okay with .99 for short stories. I haven't tinkered at all with the prices of my books, so no data there.

    My experience with sales channels is different from yours. My short story sales are pretty sparse at Amazon, while I've had a handful of sales at both Apple and Kobo (through SW). Downloads of my free stories have been the bulk of my "sales" at B&N and Sony.

  2. I do have a free story at Smashwords, and it definitely has a ton of downloads. Not sure whether it's led to any paid sales or not.

    I've never doubted the 99-cent price point for short stories and the like...though I've heard many people claim that you should price them at $1.99 or $2.99...I just don't see the numbers supporting that plan.


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