Saturday, May 5, 2012

Marketing Tips and the 99-cent Book

Self-published authors have a long list of activities to bring their books to readers besides taking a year or more to write. One of the more challenging activities is how to market once a novel is published. And one of the first decisions is pricing.

Unknown authors especially agonize over pricing: should we price low to encourage readers to investigate us even if it means painfully low revenue?

Melissa Foster, bestselling, award-winning author of three novels, Megan's Way, Chasing Amanda, and Come Back to Me and founder of World Literary CafĂ©, a social networking support community for authors, in an article in the Huffington Post reviews the pros and cons of the 99 cent price point for eBooks. Some authors strongly believe that this price highly devalues their work, while other are sure that no one will read their book at a higher price. Book reviewer Ritesh Kala, for example, says the maximum he’d pay for a book by a new author is $2.99, although he allows that research is needed for this area. 

Authors have to sell a lot of books to make any money at 99 cents a book. Foster estimates that an author would have to sell 5,134 books just to break even. To make a salary of $12,000 a year, an author would have to sell 100,000 eBooks at 99 cents. To earn $40,000 per year, that author would have to sell 333,333 books per year. There are only 30 authors who have sold over 100,000 copies of their books. 

Some authors claim that pricing may not be the issue at all. People will buy for other reasons, like a recommendation from a friend or a favorite character.  A recent survey published in Publishers Weekly    by The Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project reinforces the argument that people buy on recommendations from friends:  “owners of e-reading devices are more likely than all Americans 16 and older to get book recommendations from people they knew (81% vs. 64%)”

The discussion about the pros and cons of the 99 cent eBook is prolific.  Its use today is compounded by the fast-moving pace of eBook publishing and the marketing tools available from platforms such as Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, and Apple’s iPad. Its need by new authors is being undermined by the growth in the acceptance of self-published authors.

If there is a consensus among experts, it is that pricing is not the only tool in the marketing arsenal. Following are some tips from various experts.

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