Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Raise, or Hold: The Publishing Poker Game

Ever since the start of the Amazon vs. Big Six/ebook pricing war back in mid 2009, my full-sized books have been priced at $2.99. Some, well after their run, have been bumped up to $3.99. My AGENT series books, which have been my perennial best sellers, remain at $2.99 even after being on the market for nearly three years. I've pretty much done that for one simple reason: we were in the midst of a crap economy (thanks, President Bush), and the thought of building an audience by charging an arm and a leg for a book while people were trying to find a way to put food on the table, gas in their cars, and keeping the lights on rankled me. At $2.99, I was (and still am) at the bottom end of the 70 percent royalty. A book sold equaled two bucks in my pocket.

When MODEL AGENT hit the virtual shelves in February 2011, sales went well at $2.99. I sold quite a few in the first few days that my dear friend Deborah Levinson, in a message, told me to bump the price to $3.99.

I balked. I remained at $2.99, and still sold quite a few books.

A few months later, I tried an experiment. For one week, I had priced ROGUE AGENT at $3.99 after selling well at the $2.99 price point.

After that one week was up, I brought it back down to $2.99. I hadn't sold a single copy in that time. It made me wonder--and still does to this day--if I as an author could command a price higher than $2.99 and have it sell at a rate that would allow me to put food on the table, gas in the car, and keep the lights/cable on. Would my die-hard readers, the ones who have been with me from the start of this journey, appreciate a jack-up in price?

It's the question that has plagued me and so many other authors struggling to find "the sweet spot" when it comes to pricing our books. $2.99 has been mine. I know several other authors who have gone to $3.99 and have been successful. I had the TRILOGY at $4.99 and I still managed to sell a couple copies a month before I took it down in November for a complete re-write (which I still haven't gotten to do yet). Still... a couple copies at $4.99 isn't enough to pay for lunch.

But now, after a blog came out recently, I'm wondering to myself if it's time. Am I truly low-balling myself? Is my work worth more than it is right now? Can I make more money by charging a higher rate for my books? My work has improved; fellow author Rich Meyer called me, "A bloody indie superstar" on Facebook last week. Surely if this were true, my sales would be higher than they are now.

So... what to do about this conundrum? It's like I'm playing a poker game: Do I raise the prices (and, in poker parlance, the stakes), or do I hold? Do I risk alienating my base at the risk of more profit, or do I remain where I am to keep the readers I know I have happy? Do I turn off readers who I haven't reached yet, or do I try to reach the level of the big boys and girls and see what happens?

Decisions to make--all of which are tough ones.

www.seansweeneyauthor.com