I DERIVED this column from a blog by Irish self-publisher, Catherine Ryan Howard. here
Catherine – my journalism training tells me I should call the author Howard as I do not know her from a bar of soap but I will let that rule slide – was bemoaning what happened when she dropped the price of her travelogue Mousetrapped from $2.99 to 99c.
She had previewed her second book at the end of Mousetrapped and hence the 99c positioning for publicity through increased sales. It is a common strategy for 99c books, in fact, probably the main reason for their existence.
Catherine only wanted the campaign to run a couple of weeks but because of a technical glitch involving communication one small retailer, she could not have the price changed back (prices for eBooks are set at the lowest price any one on-line retailer carries.)
Catherine’s blog is essentially about what can go wrong when on-line retailers rely so heavily on automated technology to maximise profits.
Catherine explains her plight.
“On a very bad month, I’d sell 500 copies of Mousetrapped at $2.99. Presuming that all of those come in at the 70% rate (which most of them normally do), that’s an income of approximately $1,045.’’
That explains how Amazon sets self-publishing author’s royalties at 70% for books priced between $2.99 and $9.99 and tells you that Amazon thinks it will maximise its profits if eBooks are sold at a median price of $6 (not great news for mainstream publishers who certainly cannot go near to maximising their profits at such prices).
The next bit from Catherine gets interesting.
“At 99c, Mousetrapped sells around 1,100 copies a month which at the 35% royalty rate – which is all it gets priced at 99c – that’s an income of approximately $381.’’
What Catherine is essentially doing is spending $664 ($1045-$381) a month on a marketing campaign for her next book.
But she only wanted the campaign to run for two weeks and she explains why:
“I make my living mostly from selling these books, so being down $664 a month is not something that goes unnoticed by my wallet.”
When she posted her blog, her book had still not been updated to her $2.99 price.
She is more understanding than most of us would be.
“I don’t think that Smashwords are doing anything unreasonable here – presumably updating their third party retailers takes time. I get that.’’
I would have thought a real living breathing person with the appropriate authority could have updated it in no time, if the computer interchanges between retailers work. I guess it is a question of priorities and maybe the livelihood of authors and self-publishers could be shoved a little higher in the priority hierarchy. Even if, Heaven forbid, profit had to take a hit.