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.