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Thursday, May 26, 2016

You want me to pay what?

For at least as long as I’ve been paying attention, pricing for books has been a controversial subject. The advent of the digital age has only added to the fire. Amazon may not have started it, but they definitely added fuel to the slow-burning fire and transformed it into something hotly contested. They used their vast pool of buyer data to figure out some of the psychology behind who buys what, something with which the Big Publishers have a hit-or-miss relationship.

As someone who first started with smaller epublishers before swan diving off the cliff into the world to Indie publishing. I really didn’t think I’d become part of the controversy. After all, I wasn’t part of the system of corporate greed. I was just a lowly author hoping to sell enough books to eventually replace the windows in my house.

Boy, was I wrong. (And not just because the only window I replaced was due to hail damage.)

It started with my first publisher, Siren. My first book with them (about 100K words) cost $5.99, and people liked it, so it sold. After that, they charged more for the same number of words, even going as high as $7.99, which I found shocking for an ebook (though I did enjoy the royalty checks. We took our first vacation in five years.) My second publisher, Loose Id, had a similar pricing structure, charging $6.99 for a 60K novel. Again, I was shocked—but at the time the market supported those price points.

Then Amazon kicked the publishing community again, this time targeting small publishers like Siren and Loose Id. They offered authors unlimited publishing of anything, which led to a glut of free and 99 cent books. That began the deluge of low quality works that never would have made it past and editor’s desk. (Note: There was a lot of great stuff too, but much of it was lost in the torrential downpour of books suddenly on the market.)

My next publisher, Omnific, rode that low-cost-to-the-reader wave, only their gimmick was to offer high quality works that had passed the “committee of editors” test. What could go wrong with that? Vetted and cheap—it had to be a winning combination. I now had two 65K novels out there for $2.99. I loved the Kiss Me series. It was arguably some of my best work—but it is also unequivocally my worst-selling series. Kiss Me Goodnight and Kiss Me by Moonlight were stories that tugged at my heart. Lacey and Dylan haunted my dreams and stole my thoughts for almost a year. Their journeys were arduous and heartbreaking.

But very few readers take a chance on it. Why? I used to think it was because I’m known for BDSM stories, and this is a mainstream series. However reviews and feedback were great, so I had to consider other explanations. I think it goes back to basic psychology. When people have to pay more for something, they automatically assume it’s worth more. If it’s priced low, they assume it’s probably not worth the time. Readers have become wary of novels that cost less than $3.99. The latest market research tells us that readers currently like their novels to be priced between $3.99 and $6.99, and I’ve found that to be true for now. Reader psychology is a difficult and ever-changing field, and I’m poised to keep up.

I’d charge more for the Kiss Me series, but it’s out of my hands. However, I urge you to take advantage of the low-low-low price.

Blurb for Kiss Me Goodnight:

I'm Lacey Hallem, and I have a few secrets. These aren't them: I wash my hands a lot and lie when I'm stressed. Also, I have horrible taste in men. That's how I knew Dylan was trouble the first time I saw him...

Life can be challenging for Lacey, especially when things don't come in sets of six, but she's smart and funny and able to keep her demons at bay--most of the time. She might have sensed trouble when she set eyes on Dylan, a delectable musician in a vintage T-shirt, but that doesn't stop her from thinking about him, or spending more and more time in his company.

Enter Thomas. Wealthy, handsome, and completely adoring of Lacey (flaws and all), he's everything a man should be. So why can't she convince her heart to fall in love?

Prepare to be swept up in Michele Zurlo's emotional and compelling story of learning to trust yourself, facing the past, and finding strength you never knew you had.

Blurb for Kiss Me by Moonlight:

Hey there. It's Lacey again. Falling in love and landing Dylan hasn't been the panacea I thought it would be. For starters, he moved into my apartment without asking, and he continues to have no respect for my need to have things in sets of six. Pile that on top of my emotional upheaval after losing my stepfather, and you have a recipe for disaster no amount of German chocolate cake can cure...

Yes, Lacey Hallem's life remains fraught with challenge, but you know she's a fighter. Forming a talent management agency with her best friends has been the best career move she's ever made--even if it's the only thing currently working according to plan. Lacey's OCD is getting the better of her, and this time her hands aren't the only casualty. When her lies ruin her relationships with both Kiss Me Goodnight and Dylan, she's forced to confront her demons in ways she's never had to before. As she again faces her past, can she learn once and for all to let love and friendship through the barriers she's built?

Both harrowing and hilarious, this conclusion to the tale of Lacey and Dylan will leave you laughing, crying, and fanning yourself--sometimes all at once. Michele Zurlo triumphs again in this moving story about life's quirks and what we all have to do to get by.

On a side note, I'm looking for blogs to host me next month for the Re/Leased (Doms of the FBI 5) Release Blitz. I also have ARCs available for review. Use this link if you'd like to host and/or review (non-bloggers welcome): Re/Leased (DFBI 5) Blitz or Review Signup

List of Important Links:
Kiss Me Goodnight:
Kiss Me by Moonlight:
Michele Zurlo’s Website:
Twitter: @MZurloAuthor
Kissing Bandits (closed FB group for MZ fans):

9 comments: said...

Hi Michele. I really liked "Goodnight" and have "Moonlight" on my Kindle. Anyhoo, interesting discussion about pricing. I'm afraid the glut of freebies and 99 centers have caused harm too.

Melissa Keir said...

Love love the covers. Unfortunately, we are all dealing with the pricing issues and it will continue as long as Amazon controls the market.

Tina Donahue said...

I agree with Jane. IMO being burned by so many 99¢ books has warned readers away from them, if they don't know you as an author and aren't aware of your quality. That's why it's so important that your cover art is professional and the first chapter (along with the rest of the book) is stellar. Readers can easily read a snippet on Amazon or on Google books - my guess is most do now before buying. So I still feel the 99¢ price is valuable, especially in this lousy economy when so many are living paycheck to paycheck. What's important now is great cover art, writing, and storyline. If I see that for 99¢, no way am I going to pass it up.

Cara Marsi said...

Good, thought-provoking post, Michele. I understand what you're saying about the price of ebooks, but I disagree about books selling for less than $3.99 not being seen as good. I've found $2.99 to be a good price point. I've read lots of $2.99 and 99 cent books that were good. I think what really hurts us authors is the proliferation of boxed sets selling for 99 cents. Why would a reader buy one book for 99 cents or $2.99 when they can get a dozen for 99 cents? I say this as someone who's in several good boxed sets. In fact, I now make most of my money from the boxed sets, at the sacrifice of my individual books. Frankly, I wish boxed sets would go away, but it looks like they're here to stay. I won't pay more than $6.99 for any ebook regardless of who the author is.

Molly Daniels said...

For the past two years, I've been selling my print books for $5 at local festivals, and people snapped them up. This year, I've attended three 5 signings and noticed people were more willing to shell out $10 for a tiny, thin, 20-page children's book or even a 154 page book, compared to my 200+ page work. At one event, I wrote on my price list $10, then drew a line through it and put $5, and people snapped up four. I think I'll employ the same 'special sale' mentality for my Memorial Day signing on Saturday!

Judy Baker said...

I agree pricing is always on my thoughts when I publish a book. Right now I only have one book for $.99 and the rest are $2.99 and up, my sells aren't great, but I'm am selling books. I think I'll try Molly's pricing by striking through my $15 print books and put $10 and see what happens during my June book signing. Thanks for the post.

jean hart stewart said...

Interesting column. I'm thoroughly confused by pricing. Probably a good thing I don't have much say in it.

Michele Zurlo said...

Great discussion! (Forgive my lateness, but my Internet chose today to take a vacation.)
Jane--I'm so glad you like KMG and KMM!
Melissa--Amazon definitely controls the market. 99% of my sales are through there, though to be fair I just started on Apple 6 weeks ago. We'll see if it takes off.
Tina--Indie publishing has given me total control over my cover art, which I think has been beneficial, especially for my Doms of the FBI series. My cover artist is a friend who only does art for me.
Cara--I'm in a box set now as well, and I completely agree with you on that!
Molly--I'll be at my first convention in October, so I think I'll try the 'markdown' method!
Judy--This is definitely a hit-or-miss market. Even pricing can't help with sales.
Jean--I will admit to finding it confusing as well, but independently publishing means I had to figure it out :)

Beth Trissel said...

Great post, Michele. Very informative and expressive. Thanks for sharing. Most of my books are in the hands of my publisher but I have some indies. Pricing is something I have wondered much about.

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