Category: independent press

eBook Pricing and eBook Sales––PROFIT MAXIMIZATION is the Goal

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy, Book 1 of Tales from Earth's End, KINDLE will be FREE OCTOBER 12th & 13th! Get the winner of 4 national awards for NOTHING!

The other day, I read  author Samantha Fury’s blog discussion of the result of changing her books’ prices from $.99 to $2.99. A reader/author commented that he felt that $2.99 was a fair price of his work and to give it away or sell it for $.99 demeaned his work. (For his exact words, check Samantha’s post.) I tuned in to a similar discussion on the  World Literary Cafe: “Your worth and the worth of your writing is reflected in the price of your books. If you don’t value your writing, why should anyone else?”

As a former economic analyst with couple of degrees in the subject and a long professional career as an economist, I need to point out that  profit maximization is the relevant variable. When the author is maximizing his or her profit, the book’s price is pretty much irrelevant. I’m going to present a few basic concepts of economics and illustrate them with experiences of self-published authors.

Anyone discussing eBook pricing should read Cheryl Kaye Tardif’s book, How I Made $42K in One Month Selling my eBooks.  Whoever makes over  in $42K profit in a month trumps the other on-line pundits. Despite the raging discussion about book pricing, this person is worth listening to. She’s walked the walk, not just talked the talk.

In her book, Cheryl reports that she made $30K the month after her $42K score and averages about $20K/mo. As a result of her success, she has signed a Waa-hoo of a contract with one of the major publishers. She achieved those results using Amazon’s KDP program and lays out what she did in the eBook above. By skillful manipulation of economic variables and marketing techniques, Cheryl is reaping the economic reward of her work.

Cheryl says she used the Amazon KDP program, doing a giveaway for one book of her books at a time, focusing on the first book of a series.  She kept her other prices up. But she changes her modus operandi, rather than staying fixed on one strategy. I just checked her author page. Her books are priced between $4.99 and $0.00 at this moment. (From what I’m seeing today, Cheryl has changed her method and has several of her books priced at zero. I’d be interested in finding out how it works for her.) Note that she doesn’t leave her books priced at any fixed level based on some notion of her personal worth or their intrinsic value. She changes prices to take advantage of market conditions. Cheryl is a tireless marketer.

Here’s a story: Cheryl and I were communicating about her policies a while back. I was running a KDP free program myself, while I was on vacation in New Mexico. I was participating in a Tweet Team run by World Literary Cafe. (The WLC is a resource for writers which is DEFINITELY worth joining.) I was tweeting away fulfilling my fellow team obligations, when I saw that Cheryl was posting tweets for her tweet teams while on HER vacation. That’s tireless.

I tried to emulate Cheryl’s results with a couple of sets of KDP days in August. The link takes you to my write up of the results of my first set of KDP days, including screen shots of my book ranked #1 in Sci Fi Adventure (Free) right up next to George RR Martin. The main between us difference is: he got paid. My book stayed #1 for a whole day. The article is very funny, by the way.

I repeated the KDP promotion a couple weeks later with another book, which hit #3 in the same category.

LADY GRACE, Book 2 of Tales from Earth's End, will be FREE OCTOBER 12th & 13th! Get the second of the series, a national award winner, for NOTHING! Get 2 books of the series free!

After the books reverted to not being free, result was an increase in sales in ALL of my books, some by ten times. I would have NEVER seen that increase if I hadn’t done the giveaway. Before that, my books were buried in the lower reaches of Amazon’s rating dungeons, growing mushrooms. Their brief rise to the light let thousands of potential buyers know they existed.

Do I mind giving my work away? Not all all.

A BOOK THAT IS GIVEN AWAY YIELDS THE SAME PROFIT AS ONE NOT SOLD.

I’d rather get new readers than have my work sit in Amazon’s computers hoping that someone will see its value.

THIS IS IMPORTANT, SO LISTEN UP: DO NOT confuse your value as a writer and human being with the price of your books. PERSONAL WORTH, THE VALUE OF YOUR WRITING, AND ITS PRICE ARE DIFFERENT VARIABLES.

If you need credentials to back up that statement, I also have an MA in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling and a lifelong spiritual practice. I’ve walked the walk.

ONCE AGAIN: YOUR BOOK’S PRICE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR PERSONAL WORTH OR YOUR WRITING’S WORTH!

BACK TO SELLING BOOKS: The KDP glow didn’t last, so I’m planning on repeating it a couple of times in the next 2 months. Is it work to give your book away? Oh, yeah, horrible work. Here’s my article about what I did to prepare.

Doing the prep work  was fairly awful, but I got that great screen shot out of it and way more downloads than I expected.

MORE ON PRICING: I used to sell my books at .99. I know they’re intrinsically worth way more, but they SOLD at .99. Also, depending on the relationship of the supply and demand curves for your work, you may make way more selling for less. (We’ll talk more about those slippery curves below.)

Here’s another story: I have a friend who was (she died) a major, major seller on Kindle. (She also ended up signing with one of the big 6 publishers.) She had one of her new books marked at $2.99 and it wasn’t selling.

She fretted about knocking it down to .99. She’d have to sell six times as many books to make the same profit. She finally dropped the price, and sold 16 TIMES the number of books, making way more than she had been, even at the much lower margin Amazon gives .99 books. Amazing what hitting the right price point will do.

WHAT MY FRIEND’S EXPERIENCE ILLUSTRATES IS BASIC PRICE THEORY. Price theory is one of the first courses greeting budding economists.

One of the essential tenants of price theory is: Buyers will buy  more units of whatever you’re selling at a lower price than a higher one. Through statistical sampling, it’s possible for economists to draw a graph of how many widgets people will buy at different prices, up and down the range. It’s called the demand curve. The higher the price, the fewer units will sell. 

The other side of the pricing equation is the supply curve. Basic tenant of supply: The higher the price for anything, the more units suppliers will want to produce. The  graph representing the supply side of  goes  up as quantity increases. Lots of things are imbedded in the supply curve: the cost of producing widgets or books or anything else.

Supply and Demand for Pizza

Supply and Demand for Pizza

The graph above shows how the two curves function, using the market for pizza as an example. There the supply and demand curves are just as I described. Demand slants down, indicating people will buy more pizza if it costs less. The supply curve goes up, showing that pizza makers will make more pizza if they’re paid more.

The wonder of price theory is that the supply and demand curves intersect. The happy upward-pointing supply curve crosses the downward-pointing demand curve somewhere. This means that at that price and level of production, supply equals demand and the market is cleared. All the pizzas produced find homes and everyone’s happy.

This theory does not work so precisely when we’re discussing electronic books that have no cost after they’re rendered into pixels or POD books that are spit out to meet demand. (Those are extremely efficient means of production, by the way. No tons of books sitting around waiting to be pulped.)

But the general theme of lower price, more sales holds, due to the demand function. The economic issue for the writer becomes covering those initial costs and earning something on top of them for his/her time.

THE ANGEL IS UP THERE WITH GEORGE R.R. MARTIN! Would this have happened if I hadn't "given it away?" In my dreams.

MORE ABOUT PRICING BOOKS: Don’t follow the expert’s advice, necessarily––another story: A while back, I had my books priced at .99, based on the fact that they sold at that price.

One of the industry experts told me, “The .99 cent books  are the junk books. You need to get out of that pile. Your books are better than that.” That’s true, my books aren’t  junk and I deserve to make way more than I do.

Given that advice, I raised all my books to $2.99 and above, except for one kids’ book. Result? My sales plummeted. Fell through the floor. They’ve begun selling again, and I’m making a little more than I did previously, but the sales aren’t vigorous and I’m not getting rich.

Now I look at pricing in terms of profit maximization, not “how much my books are worth” or “how much I’m worth.” Our books are worth a lot and so are we. We deserve to make a great deal on them.

But that isn’t how worth is measured by economists. To an economist, things are worth what they sell for. Do you want to know what your house is  worth? Sell it. What it sells for is its value. (Of course, you don’t have it any more.) Most people just hate this, but it’s the only objective measurement of monetary value. Everything else is talk.

WHAT’S THE WORTH OF A BOOK THAT DOESN’T SELL? NOTHING.  A book you don’t sell brings you ZERO profit. So does one you give away.

The difference is, if you give a book away, you have a new reader.

I like what Cheryl Kaye Tardif’ says and how she uses KDP. So, I’m off to get them free days rollin’ again.

Bye!

Sandy

Sandy Nathan, Award-winning Author

Sandy Nathan’s writing has won twenty-two national awards. She’s won in categories from memoir, to visionary fiction, to children’s nonfiction. And more.

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link to the left for more information on each book. All links below go to Kindle sale pages.)
Sam & Emily: A Love Story from the Underground (paperback & Kindle available)
Lady Grace: A Thrilling Adventure Wrapped in the Embrace of Epic Love (paperback & Kindle available)
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy
Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice

The Psychological Structure of the Publishing Industry: Writers and Authors are the Children, Literary Agents Are the (Good or Bad) Parents and Publishers Call the Shots

Addiction. This drawing by my daughter Lily shows the many-tentacled nature of addiction better than words. The thing about addiction is: It ain't fun.

Today, we examine the psychological structure of the publishing industry, trying to figure out why we may feel so lousy pursuing a literary career. (Unless you’re one of the anointed few making mega-bucks with your scribblings. I doubt that feels lousy.)

We’re going to take three different points of view, which add up to very similar conclusions. My fellow authors, Ruth Harris & Anne R. Allen, wrote a great blog article about Writers’ Masochism.  That refers to writers taking  garbage and ill-treatment from their bosses that no one in any other industry would tolerate.

Except maybe in the practice of law, our second point of view on this issue. Here’s a  link an article by Will Meyerhofer, an attorney and psychotherapist. If you read Mr. Meyerhofer’s article, I think you’ll agree that the legal profession and publishing industry have much in common. Or at least many people living and working in them feel just as rotten.

After practicing law for a period of time, Meyerhofer discovered that depression is common in attorneys. He became a psychotherapist who treats attorneys. In his article, Meyerhofer presents a psychological model explaining how depression is created and supported within the individual’s mind and by the legal industry. The depression-creating system he presents is one basis of the writer’s masochism post by Ruth Harris & Anne R. Allen. I recommend reading both for an understanding of writer’s masochism. Meyerhofer’s description of how lower level attorneys feel in Biglaw mirrors my own feelings as a fledgling author.

Then there’s the systems approach, widely espoused in many schools of counseling and psychotherapy. Before leaping into the world of writing, I had a broad professional life. I was an economist, negotiation coach, businesswoman, and horse rancher before the need to write knocked on my psyche. I have a couple of master’s degrees, including one in counseling. I earned my counseling degree in a program stressing family structure and systems – how a family’s unspoken rules can work to keep some family members powerless and unhappy and allow others to be fat cats and bullies. This background has served me well.

After a devastating personal experience in 1993, I entered the world of writing. Was I healing myself? Yeah. I jumped into writing groups and spending quality time with editors and spent all day sitting at a word processor. Once I learned to write decently and had enough  work on paper to need a publisher, my personal learning ratcheted up.

I became acutely aware of of the psychological structure of the literary/publication world.

At the bottom of the pyramid are hordes of wannabe authors – and they have to be published traditionally, only. Being traditionally published means: a publisher buys your manuscript according to a contract, which the publisher writes and controls. You get money (but dribbled out over time, so it’s not as much as it seems when you sign on the dotted line) and they get to do whatever they want with your work, including not publishing it. If your book does come out, you, the author, get to pay for marketing it and do the work involved. (This is lots of work.) Because of this, being traditionally published is considered by many to be far superior to and more prestigious than publishing your work  yourself. 

I recall seeing a video of a famous author giving a seminar about writing. Her fans gazed at  her with devotion normally reserved for east-Indian gurus. Rapture didn’t come close to the intensity of their focus. They were addicts, of her and of getting their work in print. Lust lived in that room. I’m astonished that no one noticed how bizarre the situation was.

Back to the publishing industry: Above the wannabe authors in the power hierarchy (way above) are the literary agents, gatekeepers to the hallowed realm of the publishers. The literary agents are numerous, but a tiny fraction of the number of wannabe authors.

Above the literary agents are the publishers, a much smaller group which  hold the keys to kingdom: the transcendent realm of publication.

In this system, power flows downward: publishers have way more power than agents who have way more power than writers/wannabe authors, who have almost no power. Publishers decide what goes into print, period. That’s power. Agents can funnel authors and writers to the publishers. No agent’s endorsement means no access to publishers. That’s power. Writers without agents learn to write powerful query letters. Imaginative query letters to seduce agents into loving them in three paragraphs. They write a lot of these. This is not power.

The publishers and agents take on the parental and adult roles in the system, doing everything good and bad parents do. Judging, evaluating, rejecting, and generally doing the naughty things described in Ruth’s and Anne’s article. This hierarchical dehumanization is part of the structure of the industry.

Angst

Angst - We all face existential anxiety, but the system in which writers operates creates a more than usual load for writes. Drawing: Lily Nathan

In this model, the writers/authors are trapped in a PERMANENT state of the powerless child. That’s what Ruth and Anne describe above, in talking about rotten deals and being forced to overwork and accept bad terms. This is a PERMANENT state, unless a writer gets lucky and enters the hallowed realm of the ACTUALLY PUBLISHED and her book sells like crazy. (Or unless the industry topples. It’s been shaken by the Great Recession and the eBook and self-publishing revolutions.)

Everyone in the traditional system is stuck. Literary agents and representatives of publishers are also mired in a PERMANENT state of the ADULT or PARENT. They are perennially superior to and controlling of the child/writers. Who are shoved into permanent INFANCY. This is lousy for the personal/spiritual development of everyone involved.

* * *

Attempting the traditional approach to publication in the beginning, I queried agents a bit and was rejected soundly. When that failed, I hired my editor to write a query letter for me. That was rejected just as fast as the ones I wrote.

The biggest learning came from watching one of my friends query. A very successful attorney, she whacked out a hundred queries for every one I wrote. She was efficient, ruthless, and did everything the books on querying said.

She said that some of the queries came back rejected faster than they would if bounced back at the agent’s mail office. “No one read the letter, much less my writing samples.”

My friend showed me that intensity and focus in the querying process yielded the same results as my dilettantism.

Nathan Bransford, the former literary agent turned author and popular blog writer said said something like this  in one of his postings. “I used to receive 15 to 20,000 query letters in a year. I took on two or three new clients.”

That’s a 0.015% chance of acceptance. Getting into Harvard Medical School is many times easier than getting an agent to take you on.

I got all this. Something inside me went, “**** this. I’m not willing to be abused.”

That was the end of my traditionally published career.

* * *

When I was in economics or coaching negotiations at the graduate level, professional life was different. In a “regular” profession, if you write and present a few excellent papers and do your work well, you’re treated like a valuable adult team member. Not so in publishing.

Anne and Ruth present some steps to take to reestablish oneself as a powerful individual in the writing world.

My solution was to create an independent press – a legal entity as  valid as any other press.

Some people start foaming at the mouth when anyone talks about  indie-presses or self-publishing. They assume that all self-published or  indie-published work is garbage. Some of these people are highly focal and even obnoxious about airing their opinions. I would like to suggest that that attitude belongs with the folks who are addicted to being traditionally published, at the cost of themselves.

People talk about the abysmal quality of self-published work. It’s true: A lot of it is junk from one cover to another. But not all of it.

As of this 2015 update, my books have won thirty awards at contests for indie-presses. I have judged one such contest. I’m not allowed to say anything about that contest, but I will say that the best of the indie-produced books far exceeded the quality of books published by the majors.

And of course they do – the majors can’t afford to put the resources into a book that some independently-funded small presses can. Books of amazing quality won in that contest.

What is the point of this diatribe? Everyone needs to create a path which will allow him or her to attain goals, while maintaining one’s soul. Anne’s and Ruth’s article gave some suggestions. Will Meyerhofer’s article gives others.

What do I suggest? Do what works and dump what doesn’t.

I chose to create my own press. I’ve got nine books on the market. Most have won multiple awards.

As an indie-press owner and indie-author, I work harder than even I, the achievement-addicted economist from Silicon Valley, could have predicted. Seven days a week at this point. The market is so flooded with author-produced ebooks and POD books, that making a good book show up above the deluge is difficult.

Communion is way more fun than feeling like you're going it alone. Drawing: Lily Nathan

The bottom line is: Writing/authoring is a tough way to make a living, no matter how you do it. Is what I’m doing easier than going the traditional route? No. It is easier on my gut.

I’m going to take it one day at a time, noting the carpal tunnel creeping into my wrists and the shrieking of the bursitis in my hips that I got from sitting too long, and weighing them against benefits achieved.

That’s all a person can do.

Readers should note that many  other ways to make a living exist in addition to writing. In this market, I’d say, “If you’ve got anything to rent, do it. I can rent my vacation home and make more in a week than some poor soul who who busts her butt to get a publishing contract on a book she took two years to write.”

Writing is not the only game in town.

Happy trails and best wishes!

Sandy Nathan

Sandy Nathan has lots of books to explore. This is her Amazon Author Page.
Here’s her website. 

The Real Reward of Writing

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy

I’m redoing my website and bopped onto Amazon to check a fact about one of my books. I noticed that it had a new review. I froze. This is a tender moment for an author. I’ve gotten reviews that were so complementary that I practically levitated. And––like any author who’s been published for more than two weeks––I’ve gotten reviews that expressed the thought that tar and feathering was too good for my book––and me.

I was in pretty good mood. Should I look at the review and chance wrecking it? Yes. No. Yes. No. Well, what the hell.

As I read the review, my eyes filled and I started to tremble. I’ve gotten lots of very good reviews by wonderfully articulate readers, but something about Glenda A. Bixler’s review moved me.

I thought about it. Why was this review so touching? Because Glenda got me. She understood me and my writing. I am quirky (in a good way.) She captured and expressed her insights in a very deep way. I thought about my reaction to her review some more and realized that the connection that Glenda and I shared through The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boywas a heart connection. What I want more than anything is that kind of connection from my readers.

THAT’S THE REWARD OF WRITING FOR ME.

I talk about writing from the heart, living from the heart on this post from my blog. There’s even a video so you can see what I look like.

I’m going to quote a bit from Glenda’s review. Not only to I want to share my books with you, I want to share Glenda’s words. My husband just read her review and said, “She does the best review writing I’ve ever seen. Wow, can she write.”

Here are a couple of paragraphs from Glenda’s review of The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy:

“Sandy Nathan had a dream–and she named it! You are now reading my thoughts about this quirky little book telling that dream–

‘something that is strange, not normal but cool’ according to the Urban dictionary. Strange, for one thing, because as I read, the word quirky came to my mind! I’ve never used it before! Certainly there are other books out there about the end of the world and I’ve read quite a few recently due to the “2012″ scare… But I don’t think there is ever going to be another like this one! . . .

“[Paragraphs removed]  This dream goes on and on…until we learn how the end of the world had started, moving across the earth, a city or a country at a time, was being destroyed…

“This dream also includes a love story like no other–really!

“Enchanting, fascinating, and heartwarming are the words I am left with as I think about the story. The end of the world? Yes, it did happen…

“Highly recommended!”

GABixlerReviews

Phew. It will take me days to recover from all that praise! But the operative word here is “quirky.” She names the distinguishing characteristic of my work. It’s unusual. Things aren’t what they seem. You won’t know what’s going to happen. My stuff isn’t like a mainstream novel where there’s a tough, but basically good-guy hero and you know what he’s going to do. I don’t write books that come out of some publisher’s standard formula. (Though I am enamored with love stories!)

That’s the joy of the indie author. We can be different. In a good way.

PS: Here’s a secret. The Angel’s sequel will be out in a couple of weeks. Lady Grace is a thrilling, action-filled adventure wrapped in the embrace of epic love. The link will take you to the Tales from Earth’s End Series official blog. Check it out: The blog has lots of information about the upcoming books in the series. Scroll down and you’ll find an “interview” with Sam Baahuhd, the headman of the village. It’s a fun interview and captures Sam perfectly.

The real secret is . . . people are telling me that Lady Grace is better than The Angel.  

All the best! Keep going for the real rewards!

Sandy Nathan, Award-winning Author

Sandy Nathan, Award-winning Author


Sandy Nathan
is the winner of twenty-one national awards, in categories from memoir, to visionary fiction, to children’s nonfiction. And more.

 

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link to the left for more information on each book. All links below go to Kindle sale pages.)
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy
Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice

 

Ringbinder theme by Themocracy