99 cents Versus $2.99: Pros and Cons

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After working with a $2.99 book and the two 99 cent books, I’ve noticed some obvious differences.  Others not so obvious when I started.  Now, this isn’t to say one is better than the other because that’s for the author to decide.  That and I’ve had that conversation so many times this year.

Pros and Cons of 99 Centers

  • PRO-  For a first time author with no reputation, this can be appealing to some readers.  There is the idea that all indie authors are unpolished, so this pricing can be enticing.
  • CON-  If you start at 99 cents, it’s difficult to go higher.  People might wait for you to get frustrated and drop the price back down.
  • PRO-  Several advertising sites require that you have a 99 cent pricing.  This opens up more doors even if it’s for a sale.
  • CON-  You need to sell a lot to get higher up the Amazon rankings.
  • PRO-  Once up there, you’ll stay up a bit longer.  A big push for a 99 center can be bigger than other pricing, which puts you at a higher total.  The ‘low risk’ or ‘deal’ mentality help get a few sales every day and this is why you might find a gradual decline instead of a plummet.
  • CON-  Some people might avoid the book because they think the low price is a sign of the author having no faith or low quality.

Pros and Cons of $2.99

  • PRO-  You get a bigger royalty from each sale.  You need to sell fewer of these books to reach the same amount as a 99 center.  For example, Allure of the Gypsies has sold fewer copies than the previous books, but has made more in first month royalties.
  • CON-  Amazon list rankings fluctuate A LOT more at this price range.  I notice a few sales and the book will leap.  A few hours of no sales and it plummets.  So it does big jumps instead of gradually moves.  The 99 centers required a day with maybe 5 sales to do the same as this one when 10 were sold.
  • PRO-  It shows a level of confidence in your own work.  Readers will see you as a professional.
  • CON-  The amount of sales won’t be as high.  I’ve been having to remind myself that a 99 center can gain more sales in the first month than a $2.99.  It’s simply how much money people are willing to spend and if they perceive a deal.
  • PRO-  You can do a price drop sale that people will notice because it will be an actual deal.

That’s all from personal experience.  I’m curious how the second month is going to go with Allure of the Gypsies.  Again, it comes down to advertising and making sure people know your book exists.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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42 Responses to 99 cents Versus $2.99: Pros and Cons

  1. Reblogged this on chrismcmullen and commented:
    Great analysis straight from an author who has experienced both price-points firsthand.

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  2. Diana S. says:

    Reblogged this on The Pelican Writer and commented:
    A few things to consider when setting a price for your novel.

    Like

  3. amberskyef says:

    I think you’ll actually find this chart most interesting: http://paidcontent.org/2013/05/09/whats-the-best-price-for-a-self-published-ebook-3-99-smashwords-research-suggests/

    I believe your third book may be selling lower because people already expect a .99 cent price point from you and may be expecting the same thing with the third book. So they could be waiting for that. That’s just one guess, but there are a myriad of factors behind it.

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    • I’ve wondered that myself, so I guess they’re going to be disappointed. A lot of series use the first book or two as 99 cents or free to entice readers. I’m guessing I’ve also lost people who took a risk on the first book and didn’t like the series. That newness factor is over since people know what to expect of me. It could also be people saving money for the end of the year. I saw an odd surge overnight that’s still going on now. Hard to explain without exact numbers here, but I can’t say I’m disappointed.

      I remember that article and will try a $3.99 for something later. Do you think traditional publishers dropping to $2.99-$4.99 will change that sweet spot?

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      • amberskyef says:

        That’s a good question. My book is $3.87, and all e-books at AEC are like that. I don’t know my sales, as I don’t like to look at them and Amazon is slow to update, so I wait for my publisher’s monthly (not really a calendar month) report from him.

        I think with newer authors putting the price at that might encourage readers to try out that book. With more known, trusted authors I don’t think dropping the price would affect anything, other than making less money for both publisher and author. At one point John Green’s TFiOS was dropped to 99 cents for whatever reason, as his publisher didn’t do it, but at the time, Green saw it as an opportunity to gain more fans, or Nerdfighters, as he calls them. I don’t know if his book sold exponentially more at that price point, as his ranking never seems to drop below the #5 spot, for both print and e-book. But publishers generally price e-books at $9.99 if they’re the big guys because they need that money in order to stay big.

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      • I’m a big sales checker, but mostly because I don’t have a publisher. I try to adjust my daily advertising depending on my sales. Never sure how I’m doing though. Figure as long as I sell a few every day, I’m in the right direction.

        I think it’s a lot easier to push a 99 cent price as either a sale or a new author. I know the dynamics of a series can change things. That introductory book at 99 cents can be a big help for the others. That might just be fantasy because I’ve seen things work differently with other genres.

        I read an article a few weeks back about the big boys dropping older books to the $2.99-$4.99 level. I don’t know how common a practice this is, but it’s scared a lot of indie authors.

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  4. Olivia Stocum says:

    I’ve noticed that most of the negative reviews I have come after a .99 sale, as if people think it’s a cheep book, and there’s nothing better for them to do than slam it. I prefer to keep it at 2.99. I get more respect that way.

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    • I got a good mix on the 99 cent books, but I’ve kept the price there. Maybe some people pounce on a sale with high expectations or to simply attack a book. Many of the negative reviews I get involve someone not finishing the book or hating the present tense. Not sure price is going to be as big a factor in the fantasy genre after what I’ve experienced.

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  5. Annie says:

    Interesting stuff. I had no idea that at 99c you’d need to sell more copies to get higher up the Amazon rankings – that’s weird! I tried out a first time, self-pubed author yesterday whose book was priced at 99 because I liked the extract on Amazon – and it was a wonderful book. It makes me sad that a price which can persuade someone to take a chance on an author can also hinder their success. 😦

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    • It must deal with Amazons algorithms, which I couldn’t even begin to understand. That and I think they change every month. I’m sure there are people out there who would be turned off at a $2.99 indie book. Some readers are bigger risk takers than others. Goes along the lines of ‘you can’t please everyone’.

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      • Annie says:

        The next book in the series I started yesterday is priced at 1.99 instead and since I’d loved the first one I didn’t hesitate to buy it. So maybe the answer is to keep the first in the series cheap and then raise the rest to the price you’d like and which will make it easier to ‘place’ on Amazon’s lists?

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      • That’s my plan. My series will be 15 books long, so I’m keeping the first two at 99 cents and the rest will be a raise in price. I’ve read that the $1.99 pricing is a price of death for some reason. Something about it is odd and doesn’t catch people’s attention.

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      • Annie says:

        Hmm. Strange! 15 books? Yey!

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      • I’m sure there’s an explanation out there somewhere, but I haven’t gone looking. As for the 15 books, I have everything outlined. So, my hope is to write 3 a year and publish 3 a year.

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      • Annie says:

        Gosh that sounds like a grueling program! 🙂

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      • Not as bad as it seems. The three books I published this year were already written. So, I’m actually currently working on the book that will be published next December. The challenge is becoming finding the time to write.

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  6. amberskyef says:

    Amazon algorithms are so nonsensical. You would think that if your ranking were 100,000 every day, that would mean selling 16 books a day, but it doesn’t. All I know is that your ranking rises higher (as in, falls, if that makes sense) contingent on your sales history. If you have monthly blasts of selling 20-30 books a day but you don’t normally sell that much, your books ranking will rise much faster than someone whose sales are used to those numbers, but then suddenly taper off. So if a book that is used to selling 30 books a day stops selling, period, it’s ranking will rise much, much slower than someone who isn’t used to selling 30 books in one day.

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    • Good point. That might be why the first two books that had 30-40 days don’t make such big jumps. The current one has had a few days like that, but not enough to prevent massive drops. Apparently, the amount of times your book comes up in a search factors in too.

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  7. sknicholls says:

    All good points to ponder. My best sells were at $2.99 so far. I have not dropped to 99 cents yet, may next your I will try that. I am usually at $3.99.

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  8. VarVau says:

    The pricing model that I thought about for anything I do self publish (as most of what I do is intended for traditional) is that 99 cents is the price for a short story. Whereas 2.99$ is the price for a longer work, though not exactly novel length.

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  9. Papi Z says:

    Reblogged this on The Literary Syndicate and commented:
    Some valid points from Charles on the differences between $.99 and $2.99 pricing. Check it out my friends.

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  10. Jade Reyner says:

    I love the debate in the comments here. I don’t have enough of a sales history to really weigh in with anything useful but what I do know is that my sales have not improved with a drop in price, but then that is probably nothing to do with the price. I echo the thoughts about the fact that if we price a little higher then it looks like we have a better product and have more respect for our product, but as unknowns, I wonder how many people are willing to pay the higher prices? I have found that the free downloads are usually reasonably successful. I guess that I will have more of an idea next year when I get the second book out there as well. Great post and great debate Charles. 🙂

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    • It might deal with the economy and time of year too. I’m kicking myself for not paying more attention to trends throughout the year. That way I could have gotten a better feel for when I need to put extra advertising power in.

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      • Jade Reyner says:

        Yes, but then it is impossible to do everything and it is such a learning journey anyway. At least you now know what you want to focus on over the next 12 months so that you can start to build up a picture. I am going to try to do the same with the pricing… assuming anyone ever buys that is! LOL.

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      • My current goal is to create an advertising plan for myself that can span a 2-3 month period for a book’s release. I have enough resources to avoid doing a big blast at the beginning and nothing else after that.

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      • Jade Reyner says:

        That sounds like a good idea. Keep me updated on how it all goes. 🙂

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  11. unpatriote says:

    Interesting article. I don’t have any experience with book publishing but I do have 25 years experience with product development, sales and marketing. The question seems how can you control your pricing point independently of perceived value? First consider your book as not only your product but also as your advertisement where the goal is not only to sale books but to gain readership. I don’t know if this is feasible in the publishing world but I would maintain my pricing point at 2.99$. However if a person likes a book he can get 2 free copies to be given to friends or family by getting a promo code. Selling a book for .99 to get one reader or selling a 2.99 book to get 3 readers. Coupon or promo codes have been used a lot in marketing to reduce a pricing point without impacting the perceived value of a product because they are independent of each other. In the end for the 3 books your pricing point will be about .99 but the price and value of your book is still 2.99 and therefore you will have acquired readers without diminishing the value of your work.

    I don’t know if digital public library have been created yet but certainly if they exist, I would make certain my first book of my series would be on the shelve of this public library. I have not published any book but I am a great reader and I read constantly. How many authors have I discovered at the public library where after such discovery I have bought their book? The public library gave access to books for free by rewarding authors with instant credibility. Imagine for an author whose name starts with He… to have its book next to Hemingway. In marketing I call this priceless. Authors will lose a lot if public libraries disappear in the digital age.

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    • I tried for the library, but they needed me to get permission from a certain company that handles a go-between. I never heard back, so I’m assuming it didn’t fly. I’ll have to try again another time when I know more about it. As an indie author, I don’t really touch on libraries because I lack the agent or publisher to get me in there.

      I publish through Amazon, so I can’t do a promo code or a coupon. I can do a 99 cent or free sale for a day or two, but that’s not always successful in gathering attention. There’s a belief that indie authors are of poor quality, which is where the 99 cents for a brand new author can help out. As someone who is publishing a series, I’ve found that a 99 cent opener helps out in easing the belief of some people.

      I admit that I’m nervous about free copies. I did free copies to gather readers when I put my first book out. I never heard back from many of these people. As far as I can tell, there are people out there who prey on first time indie authors to get free books.

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      • amberskyef says:

        If it’s any consolation, publishers usually give out about 1000 ARCs of a book or a first book in a series (but never ARCs of subsequent books in a series, except as maybe a giveaway to spur interest in the sequel or remind people that the sequel is coming out soon). This ensures they at least get a few 100 reviews back before the book is published. This doesn’t hurt sells at all because there are about 8 billion people in the world, and probably a little under half can read English (my guess, anyway). There are 300 million people in America alone, so giving away that number wouldn’t hurt. It’s lofty, but at the most, I’d like 500 reviews of my book before the sequel because I see my first book as a promotional tool, and if all those 500 reviewers can’t wait for the sequel, then I may just have 500 sells for the sequel right there.

        I was very nervous about continuing to give out ARCs of my book for reviews because I thought it’d discourage sales, but it can in fact encourage sales, especially if people see you have 50+ reviews that are mostly positive. It can especially encourage sales for the sequel, so what my assistant and I came up with was creating an event on FB to give away review copies of my book (so it’s sort of an under-the-table thing that not everyone is privy to, unless they happen to stumble upon it or are invited). So far, I have gotten about 9 reviews out of it since starting it about two weeks ago, so it’s a slow process that will hopefully earn me long-term success (and, yes, my publisher does approve). About 112 people are interested, and we post constant reminders to sort of “guilt” these people into reading and doing a review. Now my social media publicist from AEC is managing the event, along with my assistant. My assistant also suggested I do a Youtube video thanking everyone and reminding everyone to post a review once they’re finished, because it’s one thing to see a reminder, but then to actually see the person thanking them could also be a sort of guilt trip as well.

        Also, one thing that could really help bring attention to your book is to really utilize Goodreads giveaways if you can give away a physical copy. I have read this can actually encourage sales of the e-book because people see the print book as a sort of novelty, especially if it’s signed. But if they really want to read the book, they’ll buy the e-book. It can also earn you a lot of adds. When Stars Die received over 1,000 entries for the giveaway, which apparently isn’t the average (the average is about 800), and over half of those entries added WSD, so now I have about 1,000 adds. Also, the more ratings you have, the more you will be listed in the Most Popular Author tab on the goodreads giveaway lists. And these books tend to get 5,000+ entries, so that is a lot of publicity. So I would actually do a paperback giveaway of your first, second, and third book, to draw attention, and do research on how to best time these giveaways.

        I am going to do another paperback giveaway of WSD starting in January so that way my book isn’t competing with all these books that are probably being given away for the holidays.

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      • I use the Goodreads Giveaway as promotional when new books or holidays are coming out. I usually get from 100-200 people entering. From talking to other authors who do this, fantasy is a tough genre to do these giveaways for. Right now I have one running for a paperback set of all three books. I keep trying though, but it’s really low key whenever I do it even with a lot of marketing. For some reason the giveaway that I pushed the most received the least amount of entries.

        As for giving away free copies, I give maybe 3-4 out. I don’t have a publisher or anyone to help me, so I can’t afford something to the scale you’re suggesting. I’m leery of it anyway for my genre. Like I said, I gave away a bunch at the beginning and got very few back. Most of the people I sent free copies to never responded to my emails and one’s email didn’t even work any more. I have a group of beta readers and a few online reviewers who I trust. At least for now that’s what I’m comfortable working with.

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  12. amberskyef says:

    I don’t know. One of our authors wrote a contemporary fantasy, and he received about 800 entries. Our publisher doesn’t push this, and he didn’t do any real pushing at all. Giving away print books around the holidays isn’t the best thing to do, as a lot of authors do this, so your book spends very, very little time in this ‘Just Added’ section, because of all these other books being shoved on the list, so your book quickly gets pushed back. On the first day, you should receive about 200-300 entries, and you may receive about 10-20 (or 5-20) adds per day from there. On the last week, you generally total about 400 adds, getting most of your adds on the very last day.

    A lot can affect how the drawing goes. Not only does your cover have to be eye-popping, but your description has to be just as eye-popping. Putting up SIGNED, AUTHOGRAPHED COPY in caps can really draw people in and make them consider signing up. These are voracious readers who will go through pages among pages to add the books. I was surprised by how many they’ll go through. I was on page 35 on the list of books about to end the first day I was put on that list, and I was getting 20-40 adds per day from it. Needless to say, I was stunned by how far they’re wiling to look.

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    • This is the first giveaway I’m not doing a SIGNED copy and pushing for the set idea. The giveaway is mentioned on every blog tour post I have this month, so it’s getting exposure. It only has 186 entrants and that’s with the more eye-catching cover. I have the same thing happen when I try ‘Free Weekends’. I’m told by others how great it works with no advertising or some advertising, but I never get the same results.

      Now, I do wonder something in regards to a published (even small press) author and someone like me who has no publisher. Could that be a deciding factor for some people? That whole belief that I’m working with no quality control or something like that. Sounds a bit like I’m pointing fingers, but I’m curious if it’s the perception of what I am that gets people.

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  13. Chad B Hanson says:

    Reblogged this on Chad B Hanson and commented:
    Something to seriously consider when pricing a digital book.

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  14. Keith Bennett says:

    As a reader, I like it when the first book of a new to me series has a low price, so I don’t suffer from buyers remorse if I end up disliking it. If I like it I have no problem paying the normal price for the second and subsequent books, so long as normal price isn’t excessive. Discounting the second book in a series doesn’t make much sense to me, unless there is another reason at play, like promoting book 3.

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    • The pricing of the a second book in a series tends to be author preference and genre. I’d say for myself that I had the third book in the last stages of editing prior to pricing the second. The challenge for an Indie Author is always the fact that they are a relative unknown even after a first book.

      The fantasy genre is kind of odd too. I haven’t found a true pattern in the year I’ve been at this. Some authors do amazing with $2.99 books all the way while others suffer at that price. Probably relates more to promoting..

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