Book Pricing

CreateSpace’s New Distribution Options: Pros and Cons

Recently, CreateSpace added several new free distribution options to their distribution channels. This includes distribution to bookstores like Barnes & Noble and your local bookshop, academic institutions and libraries, and to CreateSpace Direct. These options, once available only to authors who were able to afford them, are now available to self-published authors with all sorts of incomes, writing styles, and fan followings.

Now there are definite perks to doing this. Authors would love more readers, and if they are able to reach readers in places previously unavailable to them due to monetary concerns, this can only be good for them. And bookstores, which have been suffering with the rise of the e-book and online distributors, will probably benefit being able to cater to the fans of authors whose works were before only available on certain online retailers. In a way, it’s a symbiotic relationship, both for authors and booksellers.

Not only that, but the books of self-published authors are sometimes rejected by libraries and academic institutions because they are self-publsihed in the first place, or their self-published status means that the books don’t come from certain distributors. If authors are able to get their works into libraries, that means people who don’t own e-readers or who can’t afford to buy books online can now read the books of self-published authors through this new distribution system.

And, using the expanded distribution channels means a potentially higher royalty rate for every copy sold.

However, there are drawbacks to this. Amazon, which owns CreateSpace and it’s print-on-demand services, determines minimum prices for all works published through them. They calculate these minimum prices by determining the length of the book, how much it’ll cost to print, how much they get from the sale of the book, and how much they need to give the author. Recently when I published my novel Reborn City, I saw that the minimum price they gave me was a little less than nine dollars, much higher than I’d expected. I wasn’t happy about it, but I decided to go with it and make the best of it.

When today I decided to try these expanded distribution options on RC, I found out that in order to use these expanded distribution channels, the list price would go up to at least thirteen dollars. In other words, the increase didn’t cost anything for the author, but it did cost extra for the reader.

I decided not to take these extra distribution channels because of the price hike it’d require. Some of my friends and family would not be able to afford a paperback copy because of a list price, or they’d be much more reluctant to buy it because is it not  their genre in addition to being over thirteen dollars. Plus, I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t want to make people pay too much for his work more than he wants them to actually read his work. Terrible character flaw, I know, but I live with it.

However that’s my own personal choice. If you wish to, go right ahead and sign up for these new channels. It’s your choice, which as I’ve said before is one of the best perks of self-pbulishing.

And who knows? You could see your sales go up dramatically, and your fanbase expand like a hot-air balloon. Not to mention the joy of telling friends and family that your work is now available in bookstores and libraries.  That’s always something to make you feel good. And for some books, the increase in the list price might not be too high, so if you have my problem with pricing books too high, it may not be so bad after all. I might still use these channels for my collection of short stories, which is already very low-priced.

What do you think of these new distribution options? Are you planning on use them? If so, why or why not?

*Note: Since this post’s publication, I’ve had a change of heart and I’ve decided to try distributing my books through these new channels in the hope of reaching more readers. Whether or not I’m successful, we shall see. Wish me luck, as well as everyone else using these options for the first time.

Categories: Amazon store, Author Platform & Branding, Book Pricing, Book Promotion, Business Plan, Createspace, Digital & ePublishing, Marketing & Promoting, Print-On-Demand, Self-Publishing, The Reader, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Things Are Changing at Amazon and Facebook….So How Do You Cope?

I just read an awesome post by Anne R. Allen titled “Indie Publishing in 2013: Why We Can’t Party Like It’s 2009″.  I encourage you to read the whole thing yourself, but to sum up the items I want to focus on in this post, it outlines the changes Amazon has been making.  These changes include the way authors have been able to effectively promote their books.   As most of you probably know, Amazon has been removing reviews, and I didn’t realize it until recently but they’re not just removing reviews from self-published books.  Traditionally published books are also at risk.  Amazon isn’t as quick to price match “free” anymore, which does limit the potential to reach a wider audience (on Amazon).  Traditionally published books are now cheaper, which (naturally) makes it harder for the indie author to compete.  It looks like sites featuring ebooks are being told by Amazon that Amazon won’t pay them if they keep featuring the free stuff.  And, to finish on my end of summarizing the post, Facebook is now wanting monetary rewards if you want to reach more people with your posts on there.  Okay, so that’s my quick breakdown of Anne R. Allen’s post because I want to alert everyone reading this that this stuff is going on, and as Anne R. Allen pointed out, we have to be flexible enough to work with these changes.

Thinking as a business person, some strategies on coping with these changes have come to mind.

1.  Patience is a must.

With the huge success stories we’ve heard about authors that seemed to pop up out of nowhere and made it big in a year or less, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking self-publishing is such an easy way to make money. The stars of self-publishing are what we hear about most.  That’s why we forget that there are a lot more other self-published authors out there who have been publishing for years who haven’t sold a million Kindle books or made megabucks.  Just like with traditional publishing, a few make it big, but most don’t.  While it’s good to have goals, I recommend being realistic about them.

2.  Sales are never steady.

Your sales from month to month will fluctuate.  I can promise you this because every single book that has ever been written has never remained at the same spot on a bestseller’s list forever.  If there is no other constant in the publishing business, you can count on sales going up and down.  Be prepared for it, and you stand a better chance of not getting depressed when your sales fall.

From what I’ve noticed (by my own sales, by talking to other authors, and reading up on the forums), a lot of authors are taking a hit in sales on Amazon.  But is it time to throw in the towel and give up?  If you don’t love self-publishing, I say stop doing it.  If you want to switch to traditional publishing, by all means do so (but I don’t think that’s the guaranteed golden egg either).  The fact of the matter is self-publishing is going to be  the easy way out.  I don’t think it ever was an easy way out, even when it was easier to get noticed on Amazon.  Why?  Because I started self-publishing on Amazon in 2009 with a few other authors, and we are not all selling the same number of books.  Some of us sell more and some of us sell less.  There will always be those who sell more than you and some who sell less than you.  What Amazon does might impact some sales, but it doesn’t have to effect all sales as long as you…

3.  Avoid exclusivity.

I’ve never been a fan of exclusivity.  I realize some authors have seen a boost from KDP Select, but I think this is way too dangerous.  I don’t care how much money goes into the pot for borrows or how much Amazon will push a Select book (which doesn’t have the same impact that it used to, from what I can tell).  If you limit yourself to one outlet, you are at the whim of the place you’re on.  I don’t care if it’s Amazon, Apple, B&N, or anywhere else.  Potential for longterm (emphasis on “long”) success requires a lot of patience and the willingness to keep going when you see no results from your efforts.  You might never make it big.  We are not all meant to.  But you might be able to have some spending money, pay some bills, or possibly make a living.  The more places you sell your books, the better your chances are of getting noticed.  Not everyone owns a Kindle.  Since we’re going global, I see this as a shining light.  Amazon is not the only place going global either, thank God.  You start getting international sales, and every little bit starts to add up.  It’s a slow process, but I believe if you’re patient, things can pick up.  Don’t shut out the potential fans.  Be accessible.  That is to your advantage.  Being dependent on one place to sell your books is not to your advantage in the long run.

4.  Watch your pricing.

As much as some of you might want to sell at a higher price, realize the fact that traditionally published books are coming down in prices.  The whole “only crap is cheap” is becoming invalid, as is the “you get what you pay for” motto that grates on my nerves whenever I hear it.  If you want to insist on a high price, understand what you’re up against.  While a lower price might not have the same incentive that it once did, it’s important to stay competitive in the marketplace if you’re running a business.  Whether you think your book is worth more or not is irrelevant if the reader doesn’t think so.  A book is worth what someone is willing to pay for it.   The same thing is true with any product.  I’m in the middle of selling my house and it will only be worth what someone offers on it, no matter how much work I put into getting it ready for selling.  Now, if you can sell at a higher price and be happy with the results, then by all means, do it.  Some of you can.  But for those who can’t (and I’m one of them), we will have to price the books at what readers are willing to pay in order to make a certain amount of money.  I believe lower prices on traditionally published books will change the perceived value readers are willing to pay for books, esp. by unknown authors.

5.  Email lists.

I wanted to mention this because of what Facebook is doing.  Facebook has been a good avenue to reach fans (esp. those on your friends’ list), but if they are starting to want money (and I’m not surprised by this), you can work around this.  On your blog or website, have a form people can fill out to be notified when you have a new book out.  Put their email on a list and send it out when the new release is out.  You only need to send this once.  Do not abuse this list or else people will block you or delete the email as soon as they see it’s from you.  And let them know upfront what the list is for.  You can also use Facebook to link up your blog post or link to your website.  You can put your website in your Facebook profile for people to view.  Anything that gets them to see the list will work to your advantage.

6.  Link your blog posts to Goodreads.

I’m surprised anyone at Goodreads reads my blog posts over there, but once in a while, I’ll get a comment.  This is a great place to have your blog posts at because people over there are book lovers.  You can also have your website in your profile page.  You don’t have to be active on Goodreads to take advantage of this.

***

I better end this post here since it’s already over 1000 words.

 

 

Categories: Book Pricing, Marketing & Promoting, Publishing Trends, Writing as a Business

My Thoughts on Self-Publishing, Traditional Publishing, and Pricing

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since I came back from the writer’s conference a couple weeks ago, and I’ve also listened to a couple of CDs from the workshops that I was unable to attend.  Below are my thoughts.  They do not reflect the thoughts of the other contributing authors on this blog.  Because my kids and I have been sick for a week, I’m closing off comments.   I wanted to do a blog post since it’s been a while, but I don’t have the energy to answer comments at this time.

With that disclaimer aside, here are my thoughts.

1.  Self-publishing ensures the author’s vision is intact.

Every once in a while, I start thinking that a traditional publisher, especially a small one, might be the way to go to build credibility among those who say those who can traditionally publish at least once, those who can’t self-publish all the time.   I’ve never been traditionally published, and looking back I’m very glad for it.  Why?  Because I never had someone from a publishing house come in and influence my voice, my characters, and my story.  Everything is 100% the way it was meant to be.  Yes, I realize that some publishers are good about sticking true to the author’s vision, but as soon as you hand over your work to a publisher, it gets tweaked on somehow.

Please note, an editor that works with your vision is very important, so I believe others going over your book is crucial.  But the editor should work for you, not the publisher.  In my opinion, an editor who works for the publisher has to be true to the publisher first and the author second.  So the publisher’s vision still prevails.  So yes, a fresh pair of eyes is key.  More than one pair is even better.  Editors, proofreaders, beta readers, critique partners, etc.  They can make your book better, but they must never sacrifice what makes your story unique: you.  Hope that makes sense.  :D

2.  I still believe you stand a better chance of making money through self-publishing.

I guess it depends on how big your name is, how big of a following you have, and what a publisher will do to promote you.  But what I’m talking about is the ordinary Joe on the street.  I consider myself to be one of those Joe’s.  I’m not a mega-blockbuster author.  You won’t find my name alongside Amanda Hocking or JA Konrath.  There are authors who outsell me by leaps and bounds.  I’m mid-list.  Lots of people have no idea who I am.  Based on how few people ever buy my books when I’m right there ready to sign them in person, I can honestly say that a lot of people don’t care to read my books.  And you know what?  I still make money.

To be honest, this used to bother me.  I hate to admit it, but sure, I would have loved to have been the Top 100 in the Paid Kindle US store or gotten a NYT Bestselling Author or USA Today Bestselling author status to put next to my name.  But looking back ever since this conference, I realized it’s to my advantage that I am where I’m at.  Why?  Because when I was at the conference and giving my spiel on marketing techniques, I was able to look other authors in the eye and tell them it’s possible to be a mid-list self-published author and make a living.

I’m not saying it’s a guarantee.  I’ve been publishing on Amazon and Smashwords since 2009.  I just published my 28th romance.  It took many books and time to get to where I am.  For two years straight, I was focusing on social networking (hanging out on a lot of forums as a participant, discussion boards, Myspace–back then it was good for authors be there, and Facebook).  I gave away a lot of free books, and it took me two years before I made $18K in one year.  In 2009, I made $150.  But you do everything you can to write a compelling story, keep finding ways to better polish up your work (you improve with every book you write), and keep at it.  I don’t believe in shortcuts.  I’ve seen sales rise and fall, my income vary from month to month like a roller coaster.  Do not quit your day job unless you have six months living expenses in your emergency fund and the ability and time to write more and more books.   I got lucky.  My husband worked while I wrote and stayed home as a housewife.  Not everyone has the luxury I did to build up seven to eight books a year (on average).  Be realistic, but also know if you don’t make a living, you might make some nice spending cash.

3. Traditional publishing isn’t a quick method to get established.

Publishers have their expenses, and not all of the books they publish will break even (meaning they will get back their investment on paying the editor, cover artist, etc).  So even publishers lose money on publishing some of the books they accept.  One publisher said the best marketing tool in her belt was to get more books out there.  The more books you can get out there, the better your chances are of finding the book that will take off.  That’s the heart of what I took away from the conference.  Of course, this does not mean you sacrifice quality for quantity.  You’ll never make money if you don’t produce quality books, and this publisher does produce quality books.  But the face remains, there are no shortcuts, so having a publisher isn’t necessarily a shortcut.  You will still need to market.  You will still need to write the best book possible.  Either way, you will have to put in the effort.

In my opinion (and keep in mind it’s only an opinion), I think it’s worth self-publishing in order to keep your rights to your work so you are free to do whatever you want to with it.  Even with the hassles involved with self-publishing (because we wear all the hats in the business), I still think it’s worth it.

4. Knowing what the market will bear helps make better pricing decisions.

A lot of people (and I mean a lot) hate my pricing strategy.  I’m fine with that.  I don’t think we all have to have the same opinion.  After all, some authors raise their prices and their sales go up.  I can’t argue with their experience.  What I know is that a higher price doesn’t work for me.  You have to price your book at what the market will bear, which means if you can sell enough copies where you are happy at a certain price, then that price is ideal for you.

Something to keep in mind when thinking of how to price your books is what is happening to the economy, both in your country and worldwide.  We are a global community.  Our ebooks are going global.  It’s exciting.  The barriers between the author and finding readers are no longer an issue.  However, we need to keep in mind what is going on with different economies.  Here in the US (from my perspective), the economy is too shaky to be pricing ebooks too high.  I was thinking of trying $3.99, but I’ve decided to stick with $2.99 for new books and to keep all of my old books at their current prices (with the exception of a couple I’ll be making free at some point during the next year, but I’ll be using a strategy in choosing which books go free).  If people are going to be facing economic hardships (say their boss cuts back their hours, gas prices go up so other items go up, etc), they are going to have less income to spend on items that are wants.  Books are not a necessity.  They are a want.  In times of economic hardship, the focus will be on things that are needed. I see no reason to raise my prices given these conditions.  Sure, some authors will still sell at a higher price, but they are already so does it really matter?

Bottom line: find your happy point (where you get sales you’re happy with at the price you’re happy with) and go with it.

Categories: Book Pricing, Self-Publishing, Traditional Publishing

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