Why I Sell My Novel For 99 Cents

There’s a lot of talk about the 99 cent ebook at the moment, so I thought I would just throw in my own 99 cents worth. Pentecost is currently 99 cents on the US Kindle store, although it started out at $2.99. It’s rank as I write this is shown above.

Here are the reasons I am leaving it at 99 cents.These are all my own reasons and may not be applicable to you, so I am not saying everyone should do this, merely why I am.

  • 99 cents is an impulse buy for anyone. My husband and I are Kindle converts and spend a lot of time reading. He isn’t an author and doesn’t keep up with the industry like I do so watching his behavior is fascinating. He buys a lot of 99 cent ebooks after downloading samples. He has tried a whole stack of indie authors based on 99 cent books and has told other people about them. It is a low risk buy and if someone enjoys the sample, they don’t even need to think about clicking when the price is under $1. I want those readers to try me as well.
  • Number of books sold is more important than income for me right now. I have a well paid day job so I am not writing for income just yet. I hope to in the future but right now, I want readers and fans. I want people signing up for Prophecy (which they do every day) and I want to build a large number of people who want to read more of my books. I am writing a series so I want to build fans now who I can sell to in the future. Hocking and others have made the first book in the series cheap (or some have made it free) and then upped the price on the subsequent books to $2.99. I may well follow suit with others in the series but for now, 99 cents is a great price for the first one.
  • The example of John Locke. Locke is rocking the Amazon charts with his 99 cent ebooks and this article is what convinced me to follow his example. He writes good thrillers with the brilliant Donovan Creed character. For 99 cents they are great value and you just buy all of them if you like what he writes. 6 books for the price of half a mainstream published book – fantastic! I’ve spent an afternoon in the hammock with Donovan Creed and it was very enjoyable! The quote below is from the interview with him.

  • JA Konrath and the impact of staying in the Amazon bestseller rank. Konrath writes the best blog for ebook authors, definitely subscribe and be inspired! He changes prices all the time and experiments with things but this got my attention “when I lowered the price of The List from $2.99 to 99 cents, I started selling 20x as many copies” (from the same Locke article). When I first launched Pentecost, I made the Amazon rankings in launch week based on my platform and my marketing activities but then I dropped out of the charts. Of course, I freaked out because I cannot sustain the effort it takes to maintain those rankings on my own. So after reading a lot of Konrath, I dropped my price to 99 cents and I haven’t left the charts since. I have been in Religious Fiction for 10 weeks now and have started ranking in Action/Adventure (which I believe in my true home!) I have definitely seen the evidence that lowering the price affected my ranking. Perhaps I should change the price back to $2.99 and see if it has an impact but for all the other reasons listed, I’m leaving it as is for now.
  • Fast-paced action-adventure thrillers won’t change your life. Pentecost will entertain you for a few hours but it won’t give you actionable tips for your business and won’t inspire you to give everything to charity or work for world peace. It is fiction and is there to take you out of your world for a time. I pay far more money for non-fiction books that will help me in a tangible manner than I will for fiction which I read once and then (often) forget. It’s not that I don’t value fiction writing, but the price you pay for entertainment has to be representative vs the price you pay for actionable content. I sell my e-courses for $39.99 and up to $297, and my workshops are also more expensive. I am definitely happy charging more when I believe you get more benefit, but with a thriller I am competing with free TV or a movie so want to price it attractively.

What do you think about the 99 cent ebook? What price do you sell for? Do you buy 99 cent ebooks?

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Comments

  1. says

    I hesitated when Pentecost was $2.99, but snapped it up at .99. I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I’m enjoying it so far. My book is unfinished, but having followed Konrath’s blog for over a year I would have no problem with .99 pricing. It’s the free books I’ve downloaded to my Kindle that often disappoint so I rarely download those any more.

  2. Nathan Wrann says

    I have two thoughts on this topic:

    1) I plan on publishing short stories, short story collections, novellas, novels and novel+screenplay collections. If I price novels at .99 then what do I price a short story at?

    2) if I sold a book to a publisher and they threw it in the dollar bin at Walmart with the harlequin crap i’d be pissed. Why would I treat my own books like that. I’m not a discount publisher.

    I suggest that anyone considering this read Dean Wesley Smith’s recent blog series at http://www.Deanwesleysmith.com.

  3. says

    I’m going to keep posting sporadic figures here as it helps track whether pricing makes a difference. I have kept the 99c price point and sales have continued since Feb at the same rate – between 250-300 per week.
    Rankings today:
    Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,059 Paid in Kindle Store
    #10 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Religious Fiction
    #12 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Religious & Inspirational
    #39 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Action & Adventure
    and in Amazon.co.uk store
    Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #890 Paid in Kindle Store
    #2 in Books > Fiction > Religious & Inspirational > Christian
    #3 in Kindle Store > Books > Fiction > Religious Fiction
    #3 in Books > Religion & Spirituality > Spiritual Literature & Fiction

  4. says

    Another update as I have just done my sales figures.
    As at 17 July 2011, I have sold 7058 copies of Pentecost.
    6881 of those are Kindle ebooks – that’s 98%.

    I am seriously considering not doing a print book next time – or at least leaving that until a lot later. It just doesn’t make sense for the outlay.

    In rankings, Pentecost on Amazon.com:
    Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,036 Paid in Kindle Store
    #8 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Religious & Inspirational
    #8 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Religious Fiction
    #29 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Action & Adventure

    On Amazon.co.uk:
    Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #550 Paid in Kindle Store
    #2 in Books > Religion & Spirituality > Spiritual Literature & Fiction
    #3 in Kindle Store > Books > Fiction > Religious Fiction
    #7 in Books > Fiction > Religious & Inspirational

  5. says

    Here are my thoughts *as a reader* – I spend, on average, $75-150 a month on books. Yes, books. I love them, can’t get enough and I have an ereader which means other than books for my classroom or reference, I buy ebooks. I specifically look for inexpensive books from authors I am unfamiliar with, free, .99, 2.99 etc. I will rarely pay more than that from someone that I haven’t read. BUT if I read it and like it I will usually (within 24 hrs of finishing the cheap book) buy the entire series. I have nearly 600 books reviewed on goodreads and read 3-6 books a week.

    Yes, I spend a lot of money on books BUT I also want value for my money. I want to get as many books out of that $20-40 a week I spend because I read so damn much.

    Now, being a wannabe author, I really appreciate the price point break down on ebook sales through Amazon as this is something that appeals to me as an author. I see it from both sides (though I don’t have anything published yet except for free on Scribd). I’ll be reading the other blog posts with much enthusiasm.
    Thanks!

  6. says

    I think .99c is a good price for self-published e-books because readers can be skeptical about independent offerings.
    I’ve seen some comment about whether the fans of .99c authors will “convert” to a more expensive print copy if that author is picked up by a “real” publisher, but I don’t think that is an issue. Even if they don’t, if an author has sold 50,000 ebooks at .99c on a 35% royalty rate they’re still probably making the same (or more) as they would with an advance. The idea is to attract an audience and if impulse buys help do that, then well and good.

  7. says

    Joanna,

    Nice post! I just launched the kindle version of my novel, Wyndano’s Cloak, and priced it at .99 for all the reasons you state above. I’ll have to see if I’ll keep it there, but the most important thing right now is for people to find out about it. I see the .99 book as practically a give away, or risk free to readers. I also think greater sales in the beginning is important for authors who don’t have name recognition to help them sell books. But with the hundredth-monkey syndrome (you know, the hundredth monkey that shows a new behavior on one island, triggers that new behavior on ANOTHER island), I’m hoping that currents start percolating in cyberspace, and people start to take notice!

    Best,
    Peter,
    Writing as A. R. Silverberry
    Award-Winning Author of Wyndano’s Cloak

  8. says

    I fear the 99 cent book. All of your arguments make sense, but I feel like if an author doesn’t value their work, why should I? I may be alone on that one. I have purchased one or two, but usually because I found a review of the book or the author before I saw the price.

  9. says

    Loved reading your thoughts and wisdom here, Joanna! I can’t e-publish anything at the moment, because of a contract, but I’m definitely thinking down the road, I’d like to give this a try. I always wonder about why some authors choose .99 when it seems acceptable to price at 2.99.

  10. says

    I understand Joanna’s reasons, and I respect them. I also understand John Locke’s decision to stick with 0.99, at least for a while. It has worked beautifully for both of them.

    I’m now selling at 0.99 as part of my first 2-months launch plan. I’m going to increase my price to 2.99 or 3.99 very soon.

    Why?

    I’m taking a long-term view that good books will be written by folks who can write full time, and have enough money to hire the best editors.

    I can do neither at 0.99 per book. In the end, I’m betraying my own readers by not offering them the best I can. It’s amazing how demanding the target audience is – they want more books right now. But I work a 14-hour day job just to support my family… I write, exhausted, after midnight. Permanent burnout is name of the game at 0.99, at least for me.

    Am I shooting myself in the foot? :) Maybe… time will tell.

    My book’s out there, and it’s starting to pick up some sales and reviews. I also seem to have sensed my target market. I feel confident, at least now, to hold my ground :)

  11. says

    I agree with the guy on here who in 2 year’s time all authors will be giving their work away for FREE just to compete with each other. This is true. I don’t see it happening any other way.

    The Amanda Hocking and John Locke days are over. They got there 1st with the 99 cents when it wass new. Now it has almost become the standard for ebooks. Another guy on here said authors will drop their prices to 75 cents or even 25 just to see a couple more sales.

    When writers who sell at 99 cents post like this on their blogs they seem to get so caught up in the number of sales! 105 copies sold in 5 months has earned that writer a grand total of $50 give or take. The author would make SoOO much more $ by working at McDonald’s. Okay?

    As for CrystalCLIP, no point in telling how much $ you spend on books here since self published writers don’t see any of that alleged $75-$100 you’re bragging about. You don’t want to spend $2 on an untested author? Why not? You spend $10 on the untested author at the bookstore.

    You say most of your ebooks are free, .99 cents or $2? But you spend $75-$100 at the bookstore? Slap in the face to ANY self published author if this is true. I say “if” because I don’t believe you.

    You sound like a moocher to me, way too cheap too spend that kind of $ in a bookstore, talking about you want ‘value’ for your money on Kindle.

    *$75 to $100 at the bookstore
    *$200-$300 on e-reading device
    *$5-$6 on Starbucks coffee to drink while reading ebook.
    *Free-99cents ebook. And that damn Ebook better be worth my 99 cents! I want these writers to sweat for their 35 cent royalties or they better!

    • Dan Dejonge says

      Your are right on target. I don’t know where this is going. How did most of the information on the web become free. Ask the Newspapers what happen? Would a author be crazy enough to
      to publish “War and Peace” size novel for .99 cents. Yep, but not me.
      When people say Value for .99 cents. what they are saying is how much self absorption can I get for .99 cents. Fact is I’m not going to give them much.
      It cost me $1.48 for coffee at the local cafe which is an ok value but only if you sit at the round table with the boys, talking about the blizzard of 38 or how many coons they trap with peanut butter with a 5 gallon bucket. O by the way, you have to tip the waitress .25 cents.

  12. says

    Hi Joanna
    I’ve self published my first novel and maybe I was a bit naive, but I placed a value of $4.99 on my e-book. I’m happy with the response I’ve had. Received good reviews and wonder if the attraction is the book’s cover ? By way of note, if the author doesn’t value the book, why should a potential reader bother buying it? Despite that, after reading a few articles on pricing I have dropped the price to $3.99

  13. Michael D. Christensen says

    I recently placed my novel, The Tomb of the Devils, out on Barnes and Noble for 99 cents. I’ve been going back and forth, wondering if I did the right thing, pricing it so low. Yet, this is my first novel and my first experience in the ebook world. I’ve appreciated reading your article and the subsequent comments. Thanks for the information.

  14. Spencer says

    Great info! I find the most interesting topic here to be perceived value of non-fiction over fiction. Is anyone finding that to be the case? Are people willing to pay more for information that can improve their lives long-term?

    Thanks for your input!

  15. Liz Atherton says

    I would like to know how to put your book on Kindle for .99 cents when Createspace want to charge more than that when using their Royalty Calculator. Am I missing something? Or is there another distribution channel setup with Amazon/Kindle?

  16. Amirah says

    Okay so let me get this straight. If you sell you ebook for 99 cents is that per book? Like for example if you sell 10 books is that = to 10.00 or is something being taken out of that. I’m confused on that part and I’m new to this as well. I love to write and actually have about 7 stories saved on my computer that’s waiting to be publish, but I don’t know how to start with this ebook thing. My books are inspirational books kinda like Max Lucado to give you more of an idea. Think it will sell well? And please someone help me to get started. Where should I sell them? What’s the process?

  17. Yuajah says

    Hi, I currently publish books on Amazon.com on a very rare topic. I do ok. But I came here just to out about selling my ebook as a way to promote my work and get my name out there. I got a lot of information. I am pricing my first ebook at 99 cents today. I hope it goes well. Thanks a bunch.

  18. Adrienne Kleinschmidt says

    Hey Joanna!
    I love your article! It is eactly what I needed to know.. Thanks you!
    I am new to Kindle e-publishing.. and now have two books on Amazon..
    The Secrets of Snowflakes.. a little art book of snowflakes and poems about
    them and the people of Flakeville.. A wonderful website which I have been a part of for about eight years..”snowdays.me”
    A good friend of mine and everyone’s there.. recently passed of Cancer.. and I decided to dedicate this book to him. He was an extraordinary man, poet, photographer, husband, father, and friend.
    He was one of the heartbeats in Flakeville. 269 pages ..
    Then .The Little Bird’s Journey.. A childrens story..
    I wanted to sell my books for 99 cents.. but I was not given the option????
    I am making 7 cents per book, after paying the $2.90 delivery charge?????
    Something’s not right.. Help!
    Sincerely,
    Adrienne Kleinschmidt
    adrnklnsch@aim.com
    p.s.
    I am in the process of publishing more books soon.. but not under these conditions..
    Thanks so much..

  19. says

    All of my ebooks are .99 cents. Since I first published my work I have been getting royalties. I’m happy about that, because it was my first time publishing. Now I have 18 ebooks. All of them are .99 cents. I’m keeping them at that rate for now.
    I have hard cover prints as well, but my ebooks are very famous for now. I’m happy about the way things are going. I believe in this article you have written. It’s so true.

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