For better or for worse, revisions to The Mirror, Book One – Welcome to the Evil Sisterhood are done. I doubt that the text is 100% error-free, but if it’s 99% or, better, 99.5%, that’s good enough for this first-time independent author. My friesenpress.com account manager has informed me that the next step is to identify the prices for the hardcover, paperback, and e-book formats. This sounds like a great topic for a post.
My ultimate goal with the book is to maximize sales, and thus maximize the book’s social impact. Having said this, I am not immune to author royalties, as I’d like to recover at least the ~ $10,000 investment in the book. Even better would be getting out of the rather significant personal debt hole that fighting court-ordered child abuse has put me in.
For those not familiar with my forthcoming book, it is a non-fiction work that is consistently reported to be a gripping read that compares favourably to quality fiction. It has strong elements of: autobiography, human interest, abnormal human psychology, scandal, cover up, intrigue, and fascinating new ideas. You can read more about it here, including what test readers are saying.
Having done some preliminary background digging, I’ve come up with some interesting information. First, however, this is what the default recommendations (based on page count) are on my author account page at the friesenpress.com website:
e-book: Recommended “Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price” (MSRP) was $2.99, which would net me a generous royalty of $2.10, if purchased from the friesenpress online bookstore. Any price above this at the FP bookstore nets me 70% royalties. For other online sellers, this would vary from 30% to 55% royalties. (See this link for some detailed information on e-book pricing and royalties. Generally, $2.99 appears to be the floor for the highest rates.)
paperback: Recommended MSRP is $21.99. For sales at the FP bookstore, this would net me a tidy $11.81 in royalty for each book. For normal distribution channels, this would net me a $1.76 royalty for each book sold, an order of magnitude less! The minimum MSRP is $20.49, at which my regular distribution channels sales would net me $0.00 in per-book royalty.
hard cover: Recommended MSRP is $35.99, which would net me a handsome $19.79 royalty if bought from the FP online bookstore. I feel like I am going to swoon at the very thought of such a sum! Through normal distribution channels, this drops to a $3.60 royalty per book sold. The minimum price is $32.02, at which I make a $0.00 royalty through normal distribution channels sales.
Since I make killer good royalty rates via the FP online bookstore, I can discount the price of the physical books there and still make a buck or two. However, before identifying actual prices, there is still more to consider. As it turns out, physical books don’t really matter that much for the independent author.
Kudos to blogger LindaGHill for bringing this one to my attention. Authorearnings.com describes its purpose being as “… to gather and share information so that writers can make informed decisions. Our secondary mission is to call for change within the publishing community for better pay and fairer terms in all contracts. This is a website by authors and for authors.” From their superb “The 7k Report” post, I pulled the following information:
Wow. E-book is, by far, the dominate format of Amazon.com bestseller sales. Watch what happens when we look at only the top 100:
Even more Wow. The dominance of the e-book format becomes more pronounced. It was this information that lead me to conclude that physical book sales and pricing are relatively unimportant for me as a new independent author.
I should note that these data are for fiction, whereas I have written non-fiction. I suspect that physical books are more important in non-fiction, especially if the books can be reused often (e.g., cookbook), will be a frequent reference to other works, or it has some emotional / sentiment value to the reader. Thus, I temper my expectations of the e-book format a bit.
However, given such dominance, I suspect that e-book will still be the most important format for my book, but not quite to the degree of significance shown here.
For the hardcover and paperback, then, it’s a no-brainer: I’ll go with FriesenPress.com’s recommended MSRPs. I might ask for their recommendations as to the discount offered at the FP online bookstore–25%, 33%, 45%, etc.–, but this too is nothing to lose sleep over. To be honest, I do like the idea that my book will be available in physical form. Perhaps I am old-fashioned.
Next, let’s consider the Forbes online article “Mark Coker: Indie Authors Are Underpricing Their Books.” These are the main points I pulled from this article on self-published e-books:
– Free e-books “sell” the most copies (not surprisingly).
– We sell fewer e-books as the price climbs: $.99 sells more e-books than $1.99, $1.99 sells more e-books than $2.99, etc. However, absolute $$$ per book author royalty goes up with price.
– $2.99 to $5.99 is the “sweet spot” band that produces optimal indie (i.e., independent) author income.
– Lower prices have the advantage that more readers, due to greater sales volume, will get to know you and your work (i.e., may help for future books’ sales or greater social impact if that is a goal, which it is in this case).
– Best selling e-books tend to be longer ones (e.g., 120,000 words or more), contrary to “conventional” book wisdom (mine is 94,000 words, with a sequel in progress).
– Top 30 selling e-books worked out to price at between 3¢/1000 words and 5¢/1000 words. (With my 94,000 words, this would range from $2.82 to $4.70, or $2.99 to $4.99 with standard $.99 price rounding.)
– One exception was a popular novella, which, at ~40,000 words and $2.99, worked out to 8¢ to 9¢/1000
Thus, The Mirror, Book One would seem to naturally fall into the “sweet spot” band, somewhere between $2.99 and $4.99. If it’s as good as the test readers seem to be saying, then it might be able to command 9¢/1000 words, or $8.49, rounded up a few cents.
This might be feasible were I a known author. However, I suspect that, as a new author, the e-book wouldn’t necessarily sell well at that high a price. Thus, $8.49 appears to constitute a price ceiling for the e-book form of The Mirror, Book One.
Successful author Tim Ferriss recommends 99¢ to $2.99 for e-book pricing. Even more interesting is his recommendation to initially set the price to $0, to drive “sales” and build a following with feedback for the book.
Let’s say that I follow Tim’s advice and initially give away the e-book as a marketing strategy. The hardcover and paperback prices will be as per FriesenPress’s recommendations, as they won’t be driving the book’s success bus, so to speak. After the free book giveaway period, assuming that it has the desired effect, what do you think the e-book price should be set to?