In business school they teach you two things about pricing:

  1. Pricing is important.
  2. Pricing is tricky.

I wanted to price my book at $9.99 out of the gate but my wife suggested $9.79 just to be different. I should have done some research–I was obviously pricing myself out of the market. I lowered the price to $7.99, still high, but justifiable, I thought, based on the length of the book–105,000 words.

Now I’m thinking I should have priced the book to move from the start. Lowering the price again I’m sure would tick off some of my loyal fans (read: friends and family) who paid the $9.79 price. But if you’re just getting started I’m convinced that it’s much more important to get your work into the hands of as many people as possible rather than make the most money per book. Especially if you’re only selling one book per day. Or per week.

I lowered the price to $7.99 and sold two copies at that price. One of them was to my wife. And I’m pretty sure I know who bought the other one. Then I lowered the price to $5.99 and sales dried up completely.

Meanwhile, one of my fellow indie authors on the Forum claimed he’d sold 450 copies in January and 150 copies so far in February. Wow. Spends nothing on promotion, doesn’t do anything special to promote. He has his book priced at $0.99.

OK, here’s where my head is. If you sold 600 units it means 600 people saw the book on Amazon assuming 100% of the people who saw it bought it. More if your conversion rate is less than 100%. The man says he did nothing to promote the book other than tell his FB and Twitter friends, yet the book is moving in triple digit volumes.

I’m getting nothing.

Here are the possibilities:

  1. Every book on Amazon gets something like 600 or more looks in a six-week period, some sell and some don’t.
  2. Not every book gets 600 looks, some books attract a lot more looks than others.

If it’s (1) then my cover, blurb and sample suck badly (trust me, I treat this as a real possibility). But with two million books on KDP that’s 200 million looks per week and I doubt even Amazon gets that kind of traffic.

If it’s (2) there’s some reason that some books get a lot of looks and some don’t. If it’s not promotion or word of mouth then it’s something else.

Ken from the Forum shares his experience:

[M]y metrics from Smashwords (because I have a dashboard there) looks like this: For every 10 views, I get one sample download (Smashwords monitors that). For every two downloads, I get one sale. I don’t know if this is typical, it is just what I am getting. AND this didn’t happen until I changed the cover.

Amazon doesn’t have similar metrics, but they should. I bought a book on how to generate similar metrics on Amazon but for technical reasons the methods won’t work for me. I’m trying to find my way in the dark with one eye.

I did a free promotion day with no advance notice whatsoever. I got 454 downloads in a 24-hour period. I doubt seriously that if I’ve been getting hundreds of looks that all the lookers who passed up the book because of the price suddenly saw a bargain and picked it up. No, much more likely that there are a lot of folks out there looking for freebies.

Which brings me to my question: Is there a big fraction of the readership who do a search on $0.99 books?

To test that possibility I lowered my price to $0.99 for one day. I expected somewhere between ten and twenty sales if there’s a 99 cent crowd out there looking for bargains.

I got three. And I think one of those was from someone on the Forum.

Now I’m faced with (1) as an alternative explanation. So I’m rethinking my cover, my blurb, even my title.

But the price is back to $5.99. I would rather have no sales at $5.99 than no sales at $0.99.

Here’s the flip side: with the price as high as it is, I’m really motivated to make the book as good as it can be. I have an editor now, and I’ve already made structural changes to the book that I expect will greatly improve it.