Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Great John Locke 99 Cent Experiment

Have I mentioned I love guinea pigs?
Earlier this week, I posted on the four P's of marketing your indie novel.  One of those P's was pricing and turned out to be more controversial than I expected.  So far, I've followed the J.A Konrath method of sticking to a $2.99 price point.  Some of my favorite authors Icy Sedgwick and John Wiswell also posted recently about the beauty of higher pricing for indies.  The price point has worked well for me, making my book profitable within the first month of sales.

But then a reader, Coolkayaker, pointed out a recent article in The Wall Street Journal about John Locke.  I follow Mr. Locke but hadn't researched his strategy much; he doesn't write in the same genre as me.  But after reading the article, I had to admit I was intrigued.

I've decided to be the Guinea Pig!  I'm going to run a little experiment and reduce my Kindle price to 99 cents for a limited time.

Will I sell 6 times the number of copies as usual?

That's what I need to sell to make this experiment worthwhile.  I'll report back to you on the results at the end of the experiment, including how the change impacted my ranking on Amazon.  I'm not doing any other promotion over the course of this experiment so all other variables should be near equal.

Be back soon with the results!


  1. The experiment is important. I hope you've charted daily sales since launch. We can learn much about pricing and price variations if we're rigorous with the data.

  2. This will be interesting to read about.

  3. Interesting! I'm definitely intrigued about what you'll discover.

  4. Now's probably a good time to try it, but as more and more people do it, it'll be increasingly difficult to climb the charts this way. After all, if half the books on the market are 99 cents, there's no discount effect anymore.

    It's a good experiment, one Joe Konrath has tried, but his was flawed because he promoted the hell out of the price, which means he promoted the hell out of the book, so there was no way to know how many of the sales was from the price and how much was from the promotion. I think even he lost money doing it in the short term, but it increased his visibility overall, so he made money in the long term.

  5. Thanks for stopping by everyone.

    John, I've kept detailed records! I'll give you an honest analysis.

  6. It'll be interesting to see if it makes any difference! In some cases I think the authors who advocate the 99c model are already established with a huge back catalogue so I'd be interested to see if your sales go up or stay the same.

  7. Icy, My theory is that they will go up slightly but my total earnings will go down. I would love to be proven wrong and sell a bazzillion copies, but that is what I'm expecting. We will see.

  8. I shall be interested to see how you go Gen.

  9. That's very sporting of you, G., to try it out. The only way to know is to try. Like you said, you'd have to sell six times as many, and that's not easy to do.

    Frankly, John Locke may be shorting himself! How? If he sold half as many books at 2.99 as he would at 99 cents, and if 2.99 pays 70% to author and 99 cents pays 35% to author (I think that's right, anyhow), if he sold 30k copies of a novel in a month in the former, he'd make nearly $63k. But if he sold 60k books at 99 cents each, he'd only make $21k. So, again, it's really John Locke that has a tremendous amount to be gained by trying a higher price point, it'd seem.

    I agree with the poster above: the race to the bottom, as some online has called it, for price point is a shame, really. Competition among authors is not new. But competeing for the best book at the absolute lowest price--a price wher even Amazon is basically saying that it costs them 65 cents to upload and manage the books and thus they give authors only 35 cents--is sad.

    That said, I agree with everyone above, that it'll be intriguing to see what GP's experience at the underbelly of Amazon pricing will turn up (LOL). I think when you have the series completed, with several books, dropping the price periopdically on one title or another might be profitable.


    P.S. I wonder, with Konrath and others dropping the price of books willy nilly, if buyers will just sit out and say, "I got burned last time I bought a book for $3, because a week later it was $1 for a while. So, knowing the poricing changes like gasoline at the corner station, I'll just wait it out a bit.". Some would say, heck, it's so little., who would price shop? But, as an Ipad and Ipod Touch owner, I know that's precisely what happens at the App Store.

    PS. Genevieve, you can have your blog back now. LOL

  10. See, I don't get all this debate about pricing. I would never make my book-buying decision based on price. I am not rich by any means but even when Im in a bookstore, I don't bother about price - unless it's a very pricey art book. To me there's no difference between 99 cents and 2.99 or even 5.99... whatever! They all go on my pay pal or my credit card and it makes not a whit of difference. If anything, I would turn my nose up at something that's 99 cents, assuming I'm going to be getting crap. Good luck with your experiment - I'll be curious to see how it turns out. But I certainly wouldn't leave your book priced like that.

  11. I think the idea is that $.99 is inconsequential and it is therefore not much of a commitment to purchase a book by an unknown author. This encourages sales. Subsequent titles are priced at $2.99, still a sexy price for a book, given that it involves only transfer of data rather than printing, binding, and shipping of the book.

    In the L.A. Times article about John Locke, he says he is not interested in increasing the price of his books because "$.99 is the price that brought [him] to the dance."

    What long-term effect this price point will have on the market remains to be seen.

    But at the end of the day, good writing is good writing and it will be rewarded.


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