From the Archives: “Top 5 Considerations for Effectively Pricing Your Self-Published Book”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: February 3rd, 2011 ]

“Is my book too expensive?”

“Am I selling myself short?”

Traditionally-published authors usually don’t have any control over the price of their book. As a self-published author, though, how can you make sure you have priced your book appropriately? There is no hard and fast rule, unfortunately. However, here are a few things to consider while coming up with a pricing strategy for self-publishing a book:

  1. How much royalty will you earn from every book sale? If you’re planning on writing full-time, you want to make sure you’re making a sustainable amount per book ($1.50 – $2.75 is reasonable).
  2. What is your target market? Is your intended reader a teenager or an affluent attorney? You want to keep your audience in mind so that you don’t price yourself out of the market. You won’t be very successful if your ideal reader can’t afford to buy your book.
  3. Where do you want to sell your book? Trade discounts often determine where a book is sold. Most online retailers are fine with a short trade discount (less than 40%). However, big box stores, such as Borders, Barnes&Noble, etc. require at least a 50% discount (in addition to a solid marketing plan and full return-ability) to consider carrying your book. If you can’t imagine self-publishing your book without it being stocked on the shelves of your nearest B&N, you should consider going with 50% (though it will cut down on your royalties).
  4. How has your competition priced their books? Research books similar to yours. Make sure the page count is similar, it was published recently, and hopefully self-published. You don’t want to price your book too high above (or too low beneath) these books.
  5. Have you asked an expert? Now is not the time to guess. This is your livelihood. Your best bet is to employ the services of someone who is already familiar with the self-publishing industry, like a Publishing Consultant. These people know the book business, and they can help you with questions like these.

DISCUSSION: How did you decide on a price for your book?

by Elise L. Connors

I absolutely love Elise’s post on ebook pricing, especially since most of the points hold steady in the face of a rapidly changing market.  There’s very little that’s the same in 2016 as it used to be in 2012 when it comes to the world of self-publishing in digital formats––except for this!  And while some figures may require updating––and Borders has gone altogether out of business––I cannot think of better advice than what Elise gave us in these five simple points.

online shopping

One recent event has, of course, dramatically altered the parameters by which you should set your ebook’s price: Hachette won its suit against Amazon.  What does this mean?  Why should indie authors care about a battle between an online retailer and a traditional publishing company?  I can think of several reasons.

One: Amazon is far and away the largest online retailer of ebooks, outpacing Barnes & Noble by leaps and bounds and leaving Apple’s iBook store and the Google Play store to contend for the last percentages of the market with their book subscription services and bundles.

And two: Hachette’s win means that Amazon no longer gets to keep ebook prices artificially low––justifiably low, in Amazon’s opinion––as the prices of ebooks put out by the Big Five traditional publishing houses cannot be reduced by the third party online seller.  As a consequence, ebook prices have been soaring––as the Big Five set higher prices to rake in more profit, many self-publishing authors are following suit because of the luxury principle; they don’t want their books to be assumed inferior in quality just because they’re less expensive.

A lot of factors go into your price-setting decision.  Are you looking mostly for exposure?  If you are, then selling your book at a dramatically reduced price (say, a $0.99 deal) may well get your book in front of more pairs of eyes than if you price it higher (say, around $9.99).  A low price might also help lure in readers who are itching to try a new book but only have a little free cash to risk.  But a low price cuts into your royalties, and for Amazon especially the highest royalties (around 70%) come when you price your book around the $2.99 sweet spot.  You may lose a few risk-conscious readers, but you only need one reader to purchase your book to every two who turn away in order to break even in your royalties when you boost your price to $2.99.

Your book’s genre and length can also play a role.  Remember Elise’s fourth point, above?  If you’ve written a book that falls neatly to a particular genre (or perhaps, relates un-neatly to several) then you should take a long look at how similar novels of a similar length and style are being priced.  All books are wonderful things and no genre is inherently more “literary” than another, but a pragmatic author must recognize that human perception is flawed and nowhere near as egalitarian as we’d like.  This is to say, romances, Westerns, science fiction, and fantasy tend to be priced more cheaply than, say, a travelogue or political exposé.  You don’t want to price your book outside of your ideal reader’s expected range.

In a lot of ways, it’s easy to lose sight of your vision for your book when the price dominates conversation.  Here’s my advice for pricing an ebook in 2016: Do your research, consult an expert, and make the call.  Don’t spend too much time deliberating, or you’re missing out on the most important thing that you as an author can be doing: writing another book!  ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

From the Archives: “How Much Do Self-Published Authors Make Per Year?”

Welcome back to our new Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: July 13th, 2011 ]

You want to become a self-published author, but you also have bills to pay and a lifestyle to maintain. So you pull up Google (or your search engine of choice), and search for “average income for book authors” or “average income for self-published authors”. You skim the results but can’t find any solid statistics. There’s a good reason why. Ready for it? Authors aren’t paid a salary. They earn royalties based on the sales of their book. These royalties are paid to them on a set schedule – usually provided that they meet the agreed upon “minimum earning threshold”.

So, will I be able to pay my bills if I become a self-published author? That’s an excellent question. Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” answer to it. When you publish a book, you are essentially taking a “gamble” on yourself. Many authors keep their day jobs until they are able to earn enough to support themselves on their book sales alone. One dedicated Outskirts Press author made $100,000 in only 180 days (6 months). However, there are some authors who don’t earn anywhere near this amount in a year. Furthermore, there are some authors who may not sell even one book over the course of a year.

How do you know where you fall? Self-publishing is all about investing in yourself. Given that successfully publishing a book involves 20% writing and 80% marketing, you should naturally spend most of your time/money on promoting the book after you write it. If you need help, you may consider enlisting the services of a book marketing consultant.

The income of a self-publishing author is 100% in their own hands. No one can “predict” how much you will earn as that is only a result of two things:  the quality of your book and substantial effort in marketing it to the right audience.

money in the bank

Back in 2011, Elise was so perfectly on point that it’s almost a crime to revisit her post and attempt to add a touch of 2015 to it–––but I’d like to deliver some good news.  With the expansion and stabilization of the  indie, hybrid, and self-publishing markets, greater numbers of authors than ever before are able to make bank at the end of the year.  Exceptions like the one Elise mentioned remain exceptions, but now it’s not unheard of to stumble across authors like Mark Dawson, who reportedly put away some $450,000 after selling his book through Amazon Direct.  And the very fact that we can now cast a skeptical eye toward Amazon shows just how far we’ve come, I think, in that we now have established parameters for what’s “acceptable practice” and “sound ethical behavior” in our self-publishing platforms.  We have options, now, and we can afford to pick fights with industry supergiants if they act like the profit-driven corporations we know they are.

That said, we also have made progress in nailing down some of those “solid statistics” that Elise mentioned––another benefit of participating in a maturing market. In May 2015, AuthorEarnings put out its annual report.  AuthorEarnings, a website which has made its purpose to “gather and share information so that writers can make informed decisions” also has a “secondary mission […] to call for change within the publishing community for better pay and fairer terms in all contracts”––which is pretty wonderful for self-publishing authors like you or me, who want to know where we fall on the spectrum of wage-earners in our industry.  AuthorEarnings’ report shows, in great detail, how the profits from the sale of ebooks is divided up between authors, publishers, and Amazon.  And in their longitudinal study, published in September of this year, they give us a few handy statistics.  For example:

“5,643 authors in our longitudinal data set — or roughly 2.8% of the original 200,000 — whose Kindle best-selling ebooks appearing on Amazon best seller lists were consistently earning them $10K/year or better.”

And:

“[A]lmost half of these 5,600 authors — over 2,200 of them — are consistently making $25K/year or more on their Kindle bestsellers, and more than a fifth of them — over 1,200 authors in the data set — are making $50K/year or more on their Kindle best sellers alone.”

Keeping in mind that we’re talking about trends and percentages, not instruction much less guarantees, these numbers present a huge leap forward from what we had at our fingertips even just four years ago.  They present lots of opportunity for hope (lots of self-publishing “midlisters” are making good money), but also groundwork for caution (lots of authors are not visible in the data at all).  You certainly ought to keep Elise’s admonitions to self-promote carefully, often, and effectively.  The best way to sell your books is to make sure that they’re readable, “findable,” and affordable!

In closing, I’m going to ask the same question now that Elise did in 2011: What level of success have you seen as a self-published (or traditionally-published) author? Have you been able to maintain your lifestyle on royalties alone?  We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.  And even more, we’d love to be on hand to cheer you on.  You’re not alone in this endeavor!  ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

From the Archives: “How Much Do Self-Published Authors Make Per Year?”

Welcome to our new Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: July 13th, 2011 ]

You want to become a self-published author, but you also have bills to pay and a lifestyle to maintain. So you pull up Google (or your search engine of choice), and search for “average income for book authors” or “average income for self-published authors”. You skim the results but can’t find any solid statistics. There’s a good reason why. Ready for it? Authors aren’t paid a salary. They earn royalties based on the sales of their book. These royalties are paid to them on a set schedule – usually provided that they meet the agreed upon “minimum earning threshold”.

So, will I be able to pay my bills if I become a self-published author? That’s an excellent question. Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” answer to it. When you publish a book, you are essentially taking a “gamble” on yourself. Many authors keep their day jobs until they are able to earn enough to support themselves on their book sales alone. One dedicated Outskirts Press author made $100,000 in only 180 days (6 months). However, there are some authors who don’t earn anywhere near this amount in a year. Furthermore, there are some authors who may not sell even one book over the course of a year.

How do you know where you fall? Self-publishing is all about investing in yourself. Given that successfully publishing a book involves 20% writing and 80% marketing, you should naturally spend most of your time/money on promoting the book after you write it. If you need help, you may consider enlisting the services of a book marketing consultant.

The income of a self-publishing author is 100% in their own hands. No one can “predict” how much you will earn as that is only a result of two things:  the quality of your book and substantial effort in marketing it to the right audience.

Moolah

 Four years (and a few weeks) have passed since Elise first posted this blog about potential profits in self-publishing, and everything she wrote about then still holds up today.  But if you were looking for some statistics or some hard data to back up her assertions, consider the following information mined from a 2013 Forbes article:

  • 20% of self-published authors reported making no income at all from their writing, with a median income of under $5,000.
  • traditionally published authors had a median income of between $5,000 and $9,999.
  • hybrid authors–those who self-publish through a company like Outskirts Press–had a median income of between $15,000 to $19,999.
  • of authors who self-published, 1.8% made over $100,000 from their writing (in 2012); of traditionally published authors, 8.8% made a comparable amount; outdistancing the pack, hybrid authors performed the best, with 13.2% making over $100,000 in the same year.

The Forbes article stressed that theirs was an “non-scientific” sampling, so as not to be construed as “nationally representative” or even wholly accurate.  Still, when you look at the data, you can’t help but be impressed by one thing: hybrid authors are making out like bandits, comparatively!  We shouldn’t be discouraged by the first point, as the numbers don’t look all that great for traditionally published authors when it comes to profit and loss.

Take a look at this article from Publishing Perspectives, which includes a beautiful little infographic breaking down earnings by price bracket.  Those authors who make no money at all are fairly similar between traditional and self-publishing groups, but drop dramatically in the hybrid bracket.  On the whole, hybrid publishing platforms tend to spread out the earnings, percentage-wise, whereas self-published and even traditionally-published markets clump authors together into the lower income brackets.  (All but the Lucky Few, that is.)

All this to say, there’s been a shift in the last five years away from “strictly” traditional and “strictly” self-published modes of authorship.  The advent of indie and hybrid publishing–the diversification of the entire publishing system–has created more opportunities and more middle ground for authors who want to remain in control of the creative process.  None of this impacts Elise’s sound recommendation to stick to the 20/80 ratio (20% writing, 80% marketing)–but it does provide food for thought when it comes to offloading some of that marketing to professionals.  It’s no longer a question of “Can I find a niche?” but rather “Who is going to market my book most effectively?”  The answer isn’t always what you might think. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

Use Any Holiday – Not Just THE Holidays – to Promote Your Book

Santa might be the ultimate celebrity pitchman, but you don’t have to hold out till Christmas to take advantage of holiday promotional opportunities for your book. If you strike when the iron is hot (or heat a different iron entirely) you can create demand for your book any time of the year – and that is most wonderful!

The key to tapping into holiday sales opportunities is knowing your audience. If you can identify who your buyer is likely to be, you can make an educated guess about when they’re most likely to respond to the opportunity to buy.

While Christmas does indeed tend to be a hot time for book sales, it’s certainly not the only peak sales opportunity and not every type of book or book consumer will peak during this season. For instance, readers who buy a lot of diet and motivational books for themselves throughout the year may prefer a juicier indulgence than the usual self-help fare at Christmas. If your book is a saucy bodice-ripper, go for it! (In fact, you can push that romance novel again come Valentine’s Day.) However, if your specialty is, say, finance, self-improvement or inspirational, consider a New Year’s campaign to help readers get started on those resolutions.

Everywhere you look and for every type of book, there’s an ideal time to on which to focus marketing efforts. (Think at least a couple of months ahead for major holidays.) Here are just a few examples of holidays and books that may sell well at those times:

  • Halloween – horror, crime, mystery, thriller
  • Thanksgiving – cooking/food, crafts
  • Spring – gardening, romance, sports, home improvement, nature, travel
  • Mother’s Day – biographies, romance, fiction
  • Father’s Day – sports, humor, home improvement, auto
  • Summer – sports, fiction, romance, travel
  • Secular Holidays (Labor Day, Memorial Day) – patriotic, historical (fiction and nonfiction), ethnic heritage, political
  • Festivals – cooking/food, crafts, music, ethnic

In addition to the obvious possibilities, there are scads of anniversaries and national days or months recognizing just about everything: Black History Month, D-Day, National Doughnut Day, Administrative Professionals Day, St. Patrick’s Day, National Chili Day, Breast Cancer Awareness Month … and Elephant Appreciation Day, for Pete’s sake! If you’ve authored a biography on President Ronald Reagan, you can market your tome on Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day and the lesser known National Jelly Bean Day, in honor of The Gipper’s affinity for the sugary treat. Find one that aligns naturally with your area of interest and promote, promote, promote!

Elise Connors ABOUT ELISE L. CONNORS:
Elise works as the Manager of Author Support of Outskirts Press.  She also contributes to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com.Elise and a group of talented book marketing experts assist self-publishing authors and professionals who are interested in getting the best possible exposure for their book.

3 Things to Do If You Don’t Win NaNoWriMo

As NaNoWriMo comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on what you did (and didn’t) do this month. Did you meet the seemingly lofty goal of 50,000 words? Did you make it half way through? Or, are you like me and never got a chance to start?

Well, allow me to explain my situation a little more…

I began the month of November with every intention to start and win NaNoWriMo even though I didn’t have the foggiest idea who or what to write about. I have a strong fondness for the craft of “birthing” words, but I couldn’t get myself motivated to start this month. Every time I felt I may have time to, life got in the way. Sooner or later, I was able to come up with every excuse to not start writing. That leaves me at the end of November with no word count next to my name.

It’s actually quite scary…

I’m not allowing that to break my spirits, though. While I may not have “won” NaNoWriMo, I’m still a winner in my mind. I’ve had an opportunity to cheer on many others in their conquest to literary success – including Outskirts Press Vice President, Kelly Schuknecht. Overall, this has been an amazing month for so many budding novelists!

I will say – making the decision to finish a book for NaNoWriMo is hard. It’s much more difficult that it initially seems. There are great support teams to help potential novelists stay focused on reaching their daily word count goals. This doesn’t help everyone, though. This is especially true if you can’t find the time to sit down to write on a (somewhat) regular schedule.

So, what do you do if you don’t finish (or start) NaNoWriMo? Here’s a few things to begin with:

  1. Finish anyway. Just because November is over doesn’t mean that you are unable to finish your book. You achieved a major goal by starting the writing process. November is not the only time you can commit to writing a book. I see a finish line in your future!
  2. Hire a ghostwriter. If you have no clue how to continue on with your work, a ghostwriter may be able to help. This is probably the simplest solution if you want to finish your book in the near future and you’ve run out of ideas and/or can’t find the time to finish writing yourself. If you’re having a hard time finding a ghostwriter, you can ask your (future) publisher for recommendations.
  3. Make a vow to participate next year. Did November come at the most inconvenient time for you (it did for me!)? There’s always next year’s event! Or, feel free to start right away and/or hire a ghostwriter.

How are you coping with not winning NaNoWriMo?

Elise Connors ABOUT ELISE L. CONNORS:
Elise works as the Manager of Author Support of Outskirts Press.  She also contributes to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com.Elise and a group of talented book marketing experts assist self-publishing authors and professionals who are interested in getting the best possible exposure for their book.

What You Need to Know About the Amazon Kindle Price-Fixing Case

Amazon Kindle DX
Creative Commons License
Amazon Kindle DX by texqas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

In a mid-October letter to customers, Amazon pledged partial refunds to Kindle ebook buyers after a tentative agreement by three publishers to settle a price-fixing, anti-trust case. The publishers, Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster, were accused in a suit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice of colluding to keep ebook prices artificially high by blacklisting other retailers who sold books at lower prices.

Around Oct. 13, Kindle customers received notification from Amazon that book publishers Hachette, Harper Collins, and Simon & Schuster had tentatively settled their antitrust lawsuit concerning Kindle ebook prices. Under the settlements, the publishers agreed to provide funds for a credit that will be applied directly to customers’ Amazon.com accounts, pending Court approval in February 2013.

We have good news. You are entitled to a credit for some of your past e-book purchases as a result of legal settlements between several major e-book publishers and the Attorneys General of most U.S. states and territories, including yours. You do not need to do anything to receive this credit. We will contact you when the credit is applied to your Amazon.com account.

Rebate credits can be used to purchase Kindle books or print books. The amount of individual credits isn’t known, but the Attorneys General estimate that it will range from $0.30 to $1.32 for each eligible Kindle book purchased between April 2010 and May 2012.

Apple, Penguin and MacMillan were also named in the price-fixing, anti-trust lawsuit, but continue to fight the case. We will keep you posted on the resolution of that case.

Elise Connors ABOUT ELISE L. CONNORS:
Elise works as the Manager of Author Support of Outskirts Press.  She also contributes to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com.Elise and a group of talented book marketing experts assist self-publishing authors and professionals who are interested in getting the best possible exposure for their book.

Getting the Good Out of Bad Book Reviews

“No statue has ever been erected to a critic.” – Jean Sibelius

As much as every writer wants to bask in the accolades that come with a job well done, most of us don’t get through the writing process unscathed. If, by the time you publish, an editor or proofreader hasn’t zeroed in on all your writing flaws, at least one book reviewer is bound to do just that.

Let’s face it: Bad reviews sting! No matter how much praise your book gets, that one negative critique is usually the one that stands out. But as painful as it is to face the poisoned pen of a critic, it’s our mistakes that have the most to teach us. If you’re smart about your response, bad reviews could be the best thing that happens to you as a writer.

Before you fire off an angry retort or fashion a mojo doll in someone’s likeness, take a slow, deep breath. Don’t do anything in haste. Just cool your jets awhile, then take a few steps to get the ball rolling toward that silver lining:

  • Make sure the “reviewer” isn’t a competing author or a serial malcontent. Look up their other reviews. If they’ve posted an inordinate number of malicious reviews – perhaps all similarly worded – you can probably, at the very least, put very little stock in their comments.
  • Take action when necessary. If you suspect a reviewer is sabotaging your efforts to boost their own book sales or some other reason, contact Amazon, Nook or whatever book selling site is involved. You may be able to have bogus reviews taken down.
  • Answer your critics. Build a little goodwill by answering less-than-glowing endorsements with a personal reply. Let them know you’re sorry the book wasn’t their cup of tea, but you appreciate their comments (OK, you may have to fake that part). Solicit specific likes and dislikes, if they haven’t already spelled it out.

Once that’s out of the way, start making lemonade. It’s up to you to sweeten all the sour bits and turn them into something palatable. And believe me, there is something positive to be found in even the nastiest feedback:

  •  Look for specifics. A review that merely hurls vague insults is meaningless. It may be that the review was based solely on the reader’s preferences and personal biases and has little else to offer. Disregard those reviews, or those parts of reviews, and look for specific critical input. Did the reviewer complain about spelling errors? Were there factual errors in your book? Did he/she provide specific feedback about why the narrative failed to move the story along, or why the characters fell flat?
  • Learn from your critics. You may find that some reviewers have identified a weakness, your Achilles heel as a writer. Use that insight to buttress your flaws; it’ll make you a better writer in the long run.
  • Focus on what you can change. At times, reviewers are going to take a swipe at your style: the way you phrase things, the type of language you use, the type of characters you write about, the subject matter, etc. Often these choices make you you and aren’t up for discussion. Your style is your style. Period. As long as it’s not sloppy and incorrect, stay true to it.
  • Keep it in perspective. Even classics get bad reviews. Heck, huge bestsellers like Fifty Shades of Grey have received hundreds of negative reviews from readers and critics alike. Your story is simply not going to resonate with everyone.

While negative comments hurt, they’re not likely to sink a truly good book, and the innate desire to prove your critics wrong will inspire you to shore up your writing in the future. If you can muster the humor to laugh about your ugliest reviews, you might even frame the worst as wicked little good-luck charms or sorts – right next to your best-selling book!

Elise Connors ABOUT ELISE L. CONNORS:
Elise works as the Manager of Author Support of Outskirts Press.  She also contributes to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com.Elise and a group of talented book marketing experts assist self-publishing authors and professionals who are interested in getting the best possible exposure for their book.