99 Cents? $2.99? More?

That’s not me, but it is my car.

I’ve been doing a little research over the last couple of weeks, using myself as the guinea pig (apologies to out of work guinea pigs everywhere).

It began on July 19 when I made my urban/dark fantasy novel On Unfaithful Wings free through the KDP Select program for three days. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this; in fact, it’s the third. I’ve had pretty fair success with the select program, with each yielding an average of about 9000 free downloads, bit this time, there were two things different.

#1 – I released the second book in the Icarus Fell series, All Who Wander Are Lost, a couple of days before.

#2 – I put both books on sale for 99 cents for the remainder of the month after the promotion.

In the ten days following the promotion, I sold a total of 312 books between the two titles, easily my best month as an indie author. On Unfaithful Wings rose as high as #2 in the dark fantasy category, briefly hit the top 100 in contemporary fantasy, and made in appearance in the mid-4000s overall on Kindle. All Who Wander also sold well, but I don’t have ranking stats as it was fresh out of the box and hadn’t settled into its categories yet.

As those of you who have published to Kindle likely know, at any price point under $2.99, the royalty rate drops to 35%, meaning each sale was worth about 30 cents to me after delivery costs were deducted. 312 sales at 30 cents royalty on each works out to $93.60 in earnings.

I held off sending my letter of resignation to my day-job boss.

On August 1, I put the price of each book back to their normal level ($2.99 for Unfaithful, $3.99 for Wander), which bumps the royalty rate back to 70%.   In the first ten days of the month, the two books have sold 56 copies combined (I have left any borrows of Unfaithful under KDP’s prime lending program out of all figurings). At a royalty of $2.07 for each $2.99 title sold and $2.71 for each $3.99 title, total earnings in the first ten days are $138.96.  To make the same at the 99 cent price point, I would have had to sell 438 copies.

So here’s the give and take of it all: at the higher price point, I’m making more money, but my rankings are dropping.  At the lower price point, I was  making less, but my books were more visible. So which makes more sense? Earnings or exposure?

There are, of course, some unanswered questions: did putting the price up slow sales, or is that an inevitable eventuality of running a free promo? As my rankings dip at the higher price point, will sales continue to be enough that the 70% royalty rate keeps me earning more than the lower price point would have? And the big question: if I didn’t drop the prices after the promo, what would sales have been like?

I don’t have answers to the questions (if you do, feel free to comment below), but I am willing to further experiment. I’ll be doing another free promo on August 24 and 25. This time, I won’t ne adjusting the priciing post-promo, so we’ll see if there is a difference in sales after. Keep your eye open here for results 10 days later.

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8 thoughts on “99 Cents? $2.99? More?

  1. I’ve tried all of this and more – freebies seem to generate interest but then sales are not brilliant. But as an Indie author, it’s the only way I can bring my books out of obscurity. Exposure, I think is more important because if folks like your work, they may come back for more and even pay a little more to read it.

  2. Interesting stats Bruce, thanks for sharing. I’ve had MY TEMPORARY LIFE priced at 3.99 since I enrolled in KDP in February and it worked our pretty well. Recently I flirted with 4.99 for a couple of weeks then after a free promo went to 2.99.
    My thinking always was that at 3.99 it’s still good value but I’ve now realized that there are Indie writers who are selling tens of thousands of books a month and for the most part their price point is 2.99. My numbers at 2.99 have been good. Whether I’d be doing the same numbers at 3.99 who knows, but I’m going to stick it out for now and see if it helps me stay higher in the rankings a little longer before I hit the edge of the cliff and take that post-free promo dive.
    I look forward to further results of your experiment and I”m happy to share my findings too of course. Great post, thanks.

  3. There are so many people saying they consider 99 cent books to be a lower quality read. So for that reason, I only have one book at 99 cents. But that book currently is outselling my other books or at least it was until some reader gave it a one because it had sex in it. Give me a freaking break. She didn’t say the writing was bad, just there was too much sex.

  4. Love that you are sharing numbers and results. A few of my friends are and it helps the rest of us in deciding price… My publisher is going to let me play with my pricing when I get my stuff written.

  5. Thanks, Bruce, for sharing that data. It makes me wonder (once again) what the real value is in giving your book away for free. I struggle with this. I, too, have enrolled my book in KDP Select, but my evaluation about what you are saying is that offering free copies of your book does not result in increased, sustainable sales. I think a couple of respondents validate that conclusion. Besides that, I believe it cheapens the written work of art that I spent so much time and effort on. These are just viewpoints that swim around in my mind, not necessarily true or correct. Does offering your book for free really get you where you want to go?

    1. While a free promo doesn’t seem to result in sustainable sales, it does add some that you might not otherwise have gotten. It also offers the side benefit of sales of your other works. Another benefit I hadn’t thought of when I began with KDP Select is that I’ve had a number of great reviews posted by people who picked my book up for free. Will it get me where I want to go? Time will tell…

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