The ultimate goal of most authors is to make money. Money is, afterall, what makes the world go round. For every J.K. Rowling out there, there are thousands upon thousands of authors who are just trying to make ends meet. Authors are passionate about what they do, though loving your craft does not help you much in the real world when you have bills to pay.
In this article, I look at whether it is worth sacrificing a little income in order to sell more copies and raise your profile.
Finding the Optimal Price of My Ebook
I touched upon this subject a little last month in my article “The Sweet Spot of eBook Pricing“. Before launching my last book, The Art of Freelance Blogging, I looked into what the optimal price for my book should be.
Initially, I released the book for free for 5 days in order to generate reviews. After the free run, I planned on setting the price at $4.99 and then move the price up gradually over the course of a week to its full price of $9.99. I didn’t increase the price of the book as planned.
Since releasing the book I have kept a spreadsheet which details the price the book is being sold for and the number of books sold that day. I also paid attention to the rank of my book in the Amazon store. Rather than increasing the price of my book to $9.99, I reduced it to $2.99. I then increased it to $3.99 and then back to $4.99. Over the last 5 weeks I have been bouncing between these three price points.
As you would expect, I sold the most books at the $2.99 price point. Less books were sold at $3.99 and $4.99, however as these books generate a higher commission for me, they were sometimes more profitable. I’d love to tell you you all that I have found the optimal price point for my book. Unfortunately, I cannot. You see, when the price of my book increases, I sell a few less copies, however the additional commissions mean that the drop in sales is offset.
The most money generated in one day was at the $4.99 price point. However, there were other times when the higher price point reduced sales a lot. Therefore, over the last 5 weeks, it seems that all three price points generate around the same income for me (give or take a few dollars).
You might be surprised by this. After all, the book is over 580 pages long in printed form, so it seems crazy that someone who wants to take blogging seriously is being scared away by the book being sold at $4.99. That is, however, exactly what I have found. This is less a criticism of the people who decide not to buy my book and more a reflection of the competitive nature of selling books on Amazon. If I had thrown up a fancy website and sold the book with some tuition videos, I could have sold it as a package at $99. That isn’t the route I wanted to go down. I wanted to sell through Amazon and reach a large audience.
Making Money VS Gaining Readership
I often recall the quote by O’Reilly Media founder Tim O’Reilly about piracy:
Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy
This is something that I remind myself of all the time. I know I could have made thousands of dollars right away by selling the book on Clickbank and marketing it through affiliates. For most authors, this would have been the right move to make, however my intentions are not just to make money. I also want to raise my profile.
I have a lot of respect for Steve Scott, a blogger who has published lots of great books through Amazon over the last year. He explained to me that it is very difficult to write books and update a blog regularly. He was right. Before writing The Art of Freelance Blogging, I published an article on this blog every day. I could not keep that up once I started writing the book.
My situation is different to others who release books on Amazon. For most authors (particularly fiction authors), maintaining a blog may raise their profile a little, but the cost is too great for them. They see little in return for their efforts and it takes longer to complete their books (though I believe this is partly due to most authors having little experience with blogging: Yes, blogging and writing a book are different!!). So it is better for them to focus on writing books.
As a blogger who is primarily publishing non-fiction books, there is great value in me maintaining my blog. Firstly, it is a way for me to make money (ads, referrals etc). Secondly, it allows me to connect to readers. Lastly, it helps me push more sales to my books.
Going back to what I was talking about previously, the higher price point doesn’t always generate more income, however it always results in less people reading my book. That goes against one of my main goals for publishing books. Long term, I strongly believe it is in my interests to release books at a lower price point as the increased sales will help increase the readership of my blog in the long term.
Joe Rogan spoke about this his recent podcast with comedian Bill Burr. His podcast gets between five hundred thousand and one million listeners per show. The show’s success means that he could easily charge a subscription fee for the show and make a huge amount of money, however he noted that it is more important to him to have a larger audience. I agree with this viewpoint.
If I was given the option of making 20% more money every month through my books or selling 20% more copies, I would choose the latter. Only a small percentage of the additional 20% who buy one of my books will actually become a regular reader, but it’s worth the risk. A loyal fan will repay you many times over the course of your blog, whether it’s buying your next book, linking to an article you write, or recommending your blog to their friends.
Authors who do not blog should probably focus on maximising revenue, as there are no direct tangible benefits from selling more books. That is, authors who focus solely on publishing books should continue to do just that.
One downside I can envision with pricing eBooks too low is that sales of the printed book may drop. With the printed version of my book selling for $19.99, I will see less sales of the print version due to the cheap price of the digital version. This isn’t necessarily a major problem for me as the primary aim is more sales. Additionally, I don’t actually make much more money with the printed book anyway.
All self-published authors are trying to find the optimal price of their eBooks. If your blog is a big part of how you market yourself online, you need to consider the benefits of reducing the price of your books and selling more copies.
As always, I would love to hear your opinion on this issue.
Thanks for reading,