by L.J. Sellers, author of provocative mysteries and thrillers
I love most of what I do—writing novels, blogging, designing covers, hosting giveaways, chatting with book clubs—all good fun. But I loathe setting prices on my e-books. I’ve read lots of discussions on the subject and I’ve thought about the numbers until my eyes crossed over. Some authors say the 99-cent price devalues books and that they sell plenty of their self-published novels at around $5. Yet so many books were priced at $.99, many authors felt they had to have at least one book set there to be competitive. Joe Konrath has experimented a lot with pricing and I generally follow his lead.
indie blogs say Amazon has changed its algorithm again, this time giving more weight to higher-priced books. The speculation is that after all the free downloads generated by the Select program and giveaways, Amazon is trying to move authors away from free and almost-free.
From the beginning, Amazon set $2.99-$9.99 as the sweet spot by offering a 70% royalty on books priced in that range (and only a 35% royalty on everything outside.) I’ve tried to keep my books just inside that range with a few offered for less to encourage readers to try my series.
No one really knows for sure what the algorithms are doing, but observation leads me to think the speculation might be true. Suddenly, there are fewer .99-cent books on the genre bestseller lists and many more books price between $5 and $10...and even higher.
What’s an author to do? I hate raising prices, but I can't let my books slip off the lists for lack of weight. Once that happens, they lose visibility and sales drop even farther. So I’m experimenting with prices.
I raised the price of Secrets to Die For, my lead-in Jackson book, from $.99 to $2.99, thinking it would make the new algorithm happy. It didn’t. In 48 hours, my book slid from #37 on the police procedural list to #67. Panicked, I priced it back at $.99, and it’s stable for now. But I notice other 99-cent books, which have held solid spots for months, are now slipping.
Conversely, two other Jackson books, I raised from $2.99 to $3.99 to offset the money I lose on my 99-cent books and to see what would happen. Sales/rankings went up a little.
So what does all this mean? Hell if I know. I'm thoroughly confused. I hate pricing and will be glad when Amazon is making these decisions for me.
Writers: What has your experience with Amazon pricing been lately?
Readers: Do the price changes drive you crazy?