28 July 2012 by Published in: Uncategorized 43 comments

I got an e-mail from a reader the other day. It basically said that he had read many of my books, enjoyed them, but that he wasn’t going to be buying any more because at over $4 I was too expensive – that there are too many other indie authors out there, and that $2,99 was his limit. Now, never mind that I haven’t sold a book at $2.99 for six months or so – I understand the point.

I wrote him back, offering my thoughts on why I price where I do. Then I thought about it, and I realized it might not make a bad blog.

My pricing strategy, after a whopping one year in the business, is a function of my observation of the results of trial and error. I’ve tried a number of different prices and tracked the data, and watched what works and what doesn’t.

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Here are a couple of my observations. First, .99 is the new free, or rather free is the new .99. Most folks I talk to, either readers or writers, believe, fairly or unfairly, that .99 equates to a low quality book. Something marginally, if at all, edited, written in a less that competent manner by a writer that’s not at the top of his game. A crap book. Now I know there are exceptions to every rule, but frankly I’m not here to change minds and lives. I’m here to write, and to then sell what I write. The market views .99 in my genre (action/adventure thrillers) as toilet paper.

Second, $2.99 is the very bottom of the indie quality curve for real books. Now, I have read a couple that were $2.99 and been pleasantly surprised, but mostly not so much.

This has led me to conclude that most folks associate quality with price, at least to some extent. Not that a $5 book is guaranteed to be better than a $3 book, but in my mind, the odds are better if it is selling any kind of volume at that price. Now that’s not to say that I believe that a $10 book is going to necessarily be better than a $5 book, but I believe it’s likely that it will be better than a .99 or $3 book. This belief is shared by many.

Once we get closer or over $10, we are in trad pub territory, so the relative value drops – a lot of the money isn’t going to the author, but rather to the publisher, so the incremental jump in price doesn’t necessarily translate in my mind to a better written product, merely a more expensive one. And before we get into the tired debate about all the value trad pub brings in terms of quality control via gatekeeping, editing, etc. let me just say that it’s debatable how much additional value that is worth in many folks’ minds. Again, I’m not trying to change the world, merely to create a model that reflects reality. In my mind a $5 indie book should be at the same quality as a $10-$12 trad pub offering, because all of the difference in price is going to overhead that doesn’t improve the product in any way for me.

The closest parallel I can draw to my pricing take is one of burgers (I was originally going to use prostitution, but didn’t want to offend my large working girl following). You can buy burgers at virtually every price tier. $1, $3, $5, $10, $15 and higher. They are all burgers. Some satisfy themselves with $1 offerings, which aren’t my cup of tea – they taste like fried cardboard to me, but there’s a thriving market for them. At $3 you have your fast food name burger, say a Quarter Pounder or whatnot. I’m not sure what they cost in the states, but here, that’s about right. Many eat those as well. You move to $5 and you start getting a premium offering – better quality meat, bun, etc. from an indie restaurant. At $10 you are probably paying not just for a good burger, but also the place – a real restaurant with an ambiance. At $15 it’s even more about the ambiance, although the burger will probably be excellent – but you are paying for the AC, the wait staff, the vibe…in other words, overhead that doesn’t directly go into the burger’s quality – think Hard Rock or Houston’s. All of these price levels have their audiences. Burgers sell at all prices, some to different audiences, some to the same.

I’m sure there are folks who won’t pay more than $1 or $3 for a burger. “I won’t pay more than $3 for a burger. There are too many selling burgers at that price to pay more.” That’s fine. I am also sure there are those who will pay $5 for a burger, but eschew the $1 offerings, occasionally dip their toe in the $3 variety, and maybe occasionally get a $10 burger just for giggles. But they mainly stick to $5 because they prefer that quality offering over the lower price fare, and don’t see the value in the more expensive. And some go platinum level all the time, paying $10 or $15. Maybe the occasionally try a $5 burger if it is recommended to them, but that’s not their first choice. And they wouldn’t be caught dead in a fast food joint. Just not their speed.

Books are not an essential. They are entertainment. As such, value and price play a larger part in decision making, perhaps more so than food. I’ve tried my books at $3, $4 and at $5, and there is no appreciable difference in sales volume at any price within that range. It also isn’t linear. I don’t see a 25% drop in sales when I move from $3 to $4. I see virtually none. Same from $4 to $5. I also don’t see a jump in sales if I drop the price. Marketing theory says I should, but that doesn’t happen. If it did, I’d have books at each pricing level to ensure I get coverage of each audience.

I personally believe that the right price for my books is $5 or so. I’m experimenting with $6 for my new release, but mainly to see whether Amazon’s algorithms treat the higher price with any favoritism given the same sales as a $5 book – if it does, I may try $7 in the future. So far the jury is out. I will also be dropping the price on a couple of books to $3.33 for a few weeks in August just to see what happens – my bet is no change in sales but a drop in overall revenue due to the same volume, but maybe I’ll be surprised. We shall see.

My goal isn’t to lose readers or to gouge them. It’s to find the best level to sell the most books. My reasoning is that I spend a fair amount on editing, copy editing, proofreading and covers, so the finished product is a higher quality offering than many largely unedited or marginally edited book at $2.99. Sales bear that out so far. Readers don’t seem to mind paying a buck or two more for something that’s palpably better. I know I don’t. Once I know a brand is better, I willingly pay the extra, to a point, until the value I’m getting isn’t satisfactory.

A Vente no foam soy latte is about $5. I think if there are those who believe that a quality book should cost less than a 10 minute experience for a cup of coffee, then they should enjoy the lower price tier of books, and spend a fair amount of time with authors whose product might not have had the same attention or resources brought to bear. I willingly pay higher prices for authors whose work I think is good – because my time is valuable and they’ve proved themselves. I don’t have an hour here and there to test the water on a “bargain” only to discover that it falls apart on me at hour two. I just lost two hours of my life where I could have been writing, or napping, or reading something decent. So for a buck or two more, I have no problem. Some do. They know better than I what their time is worth.

What about you? What is your thinking as a reader? Let me know. I’m frankly curious now. But still not curious enough to drop a book to .99. I’d rather give it away, frankly, as I have discovered a few (very few) books for free that were good, whereas I have yet to find any at .99 that I would term good.

And now for a word from our sponsor: me. Please skip your cup of pricy java today and check out my newest one, Silver Justice. It’s getting rave early reviews, and a portion of every sale will go to battling world domination by clowns. This is a win/win for everyone. Except maybe the clowns.

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Comments

  1. Stefano Scaglione
    Sat 28th Jul 2012 at 5:17 pm

    Hi Russell, really interesting post. I am a reader and some days ago I wrote to another author, Rob S. Guthrie, on the same subject. You can read his blog post about it at:
    http://robonwriting.com/2012/07/20/for-whom-the-blog-tolls

    Regards,
    Stefano

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 28th Jul 2012 at 6:39 pm

      I just left a comment there. I think we are all grappling with the same challenges, and there are no easy answers. Rob is one of my fave indie authors, btw. The man can write.

      Reply
  2. Sat 28th Jul 2012 at 5:40 pm

    I have to admit sometimes I get tired of the cup-of-coffee analogy–because coffee is NOT cheap to produce, even if it’s sold cheaply sometimes, and that causes all sorts of problems. But that wasn’t your topic, I know.

    I think of it more like a movie. If I’d spend $6 or even $8 for 2 hours of movie-watching entertainment, I’d also spend $4.99 or $6.99 for several hours of reading pleasure. I can get books for free at the library–but then I can get movies free there too.

    I haven’t had good luck with .99 books–not that, to be honest, I’ve ever bought any. I mean just from looking at the “look inside,” I’ve seen too many errors to want to read the books at any price, including free. “Free” (or low cost) to me does not justify having a poor experience with a book.

    I have a .99 story of my own for sale–it’s priced that low because it’s a single short story. Well, actually, I have bundled a second short story in there as well, though it’s not advertised. I just didn’t want anyone to feel disappointed at one short story. It’s a nice little story, but it doesn’t particularly sell. After I did an interview on NPR, I probably sold about 40 that month (as opposed to the 3-4 copies I normally sell in a month), but I think people were just curious, and that was the cheapest way to sample me. About 6 weeks later, the NPR effect had worn off.

    I find my own Kindle price-breaking point is around 7 or 8 dollars; then a used paperback is usually cheaper, especially since you see older titles selling from resellers for .01. Add in the 3.99 shipping, and if it’s $4 for the paperback (and sometimes hardback) versus 12.99 for the ebook, I’m going to get a used paperback, even if what I really wanted was the Kindle version.

    ~ Sharazade

    Reply
  3. Sat 28th Jul 2012 at 6:13 pm

    I am still experimenting with pricing. I had a trilogy priced at $4.99 and reduced each book to $3.99. I have seen an increase in sales,, but have no idea how much of it is attributable to price. I also have a couple of books at $2.99 and they don’t sell as well as the ones at $3.99. So go figure. I also recently released a collection of short stories that runs to about 10,000 words. At first, I priced them at $2.99, but now have dropped that to .99 because many short stories are at that price. My plan for novels is to hang in the $3.99-$4.99 range for the time being. I agree that most people think price and quality have a direct relationship. I hope the new book does great.

    Reply
  4. Sat 28th Jul 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Well, I think you know where I stand on this. We’re on the same page. I, too, have moved between $3-5 and seen absolutely no change in sales. And the Starbucks analogy is as strong now as it ever was. $5 for a ten minute coffee you could make at home for a tenth the price is okay but a book for $4.99 is grossly overpriced.

    I, too, put a lot of time and money into cover, editor, a proofreader, and try to put out a book/product that is well worth the $5 experience. I have moved my books to $4 because they tend to be a little shorter (especially my 2nd) but I believe if the story is done, it’s done. Still, there are many who want a book that’s 400+ pages to be lost in for a week and I can appreciate that. So a buck’s a buck. It doesn’t change my sales, though, and neither did 99 cents (I tried that route, too).

    I think we’re caught between a rock and a bad economy, too. Still no excuse for those who pay willingly for a Starbucks but not for a book. And I know people who will still hit the brick and mortar and shell out that $15-20 for a new release by a known author.

    It’s all over the board, in my estimation. A moving target at times. Best of luck on the next book!

    Reply
  5. Sat 28th Jul 2012 at 7:43 pm

    Interesting as always. I like the back and forth. I did buy Silver Justice at the higher price because I know your writing well enough to know it is quality writing, and that it is worth it (great beginning that captivates). My own journey to self-publish had people from all over saying how they would price a collection of short stories less than a novel, and I balked, thinking of the great collections by Raymond Carver, Cheever, Munro, and many others, whose publisher didn’t lessen the price of the book just because they were short fiction. If it’s a single story, I can see a lower price. Started at $2.99 and then moved to $3.99 without any notice of a drop-off in sales (lucky? maybe), but I believe in the book’s worth. I like the thought process behind your own pricing decisions, and those commenting as well. Just keep writing really great books.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 28th Jul 2012 at 8:14 pm

      In the end I think that’s the key. Keep generating high-quality work as a writer, and then as a publisher, invest in high quality editing, covers and marketing. Be flexible in your product pricing and keep promoting and having specials – it’s retail, after all, and every day you need something to pitch, something to talk about. It’s an exhausting business, but one that is also very rewarding at a personal level.

      Maybe a year from now all my books will be $2.99. I see authors like CJ Lyons selling the hell out of them at that price, and I think, wow, I wanna be her when I grow up and get the sex change. But I tried $2.99, and it didn’t do much for my sales. But I will try a couple of titles at a lower price in August and see if that changes anything. In the end, most readers have never heard of me or my books. So I have nowhere to go but up from here. And hopefully quality will win out over time.

      Konrath and I agree on one point. Write a lot of good books, and the rest will sort of take care of itself over time. Or you’ll die. In which case it will have sort of taken care of itself…

      Reply
  6. yoon
    Sat 28th Jul 2012 at 10:45 pm

    Wow. You frequent starbucks? You seem very fluent in their language. Whenever I have no choice other than starbucks, I go in and ask for a medium coffee and they always seem to give me burnt coffee. I know, OT. I’m the queen of OT. And I’m not in the mood to talk about prices. It requires thinking and I’m trying to avoid it as much as possible today. It would be better if you just made a questionnaire so I can give you one/two word answers.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 29th Jul 2012 at 1:55 am

      Their burnt coffee is rather popular. Just saying.

      Reply
      • yoon  –  Sun 29th Jul 2012 at 8:57 am

        I know. The company I work for have starbucks coffee machines all over the place, too. And each one of them dispenses burnt coffee. But I do like the fact that the sizes are not labeled tall/grande/venti on these machines.

        And I lied. I try to avoid thinking every single day, not only yesterday. Unless I’m drunk when they are happy little thoughts. And unhappily, I’m not drunk. As you know, I’ve spent all my money buying your books, I might actually have to read books I already have.

        Reply
        • Russell Blake  –  Sun 29th Jul 2012 at 11:32 am

          Depending upon which books yo have, that might not be so bad. You can always try reading mine last chapter to first. They are layered, as you know. Sort of like Memento without the mental condition. Just a thought.

          Reply
  7. Sun 29th Jul 2012 at 12:04 am

    I just wanted to point out that marketing theory doesn’t say that units sold should decrease if price increases. That depends on the elasticity (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price_elasticity_of_demand). Basically what your data is showing is that e-books are an inelastic market.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 29th Jul 2012 at 1:54 am

      Or rather, that demand for my books is inelastic at the moment.

      Reply
  8. Sun 29th Jul 2012 at 12:31 am

    Thanks for picking the burger comparison and not the cup of coffee comparison :)

    I think you said it, there are buyers at all different prices. As a reader, I may try out a new author I don’t know at a lower price. Not a lot of risk and if I like them, I’ll buy and read another.

    As an author, I think you can pick a price and say you think that is the right “value” for your work, but you may be missing out on the reader who shops by price. You price your book at $2.99 and you miss the reader who won’t read anything under $5.99 cuz it must be crap. And you price it at $5.99 and you miss the readers that don’t want to spend over $3.99. So, I believe in moving the price around, because it’s not how much I make on one book that is important to me, it’s how much I can make on selling that one book mulitiple times. If it was price for one book, I’d set it at $100,000 and wait for someone to but it, because that’s what it’s worth.

    Keep experimenting. It’ll be interesting to see what happens after the DOJ decision and as we all compete at prices under $10.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 29th Jul 2012 at 2:03 am

      Well, I think as I build my backlist I’ll price a few at $2.99 so I don’t miss out on the cheapskates. But the truth is that I think many of those interested in giving new, unfamiliar authors a try are doing the free thing, not spending a few bucks. Maybe I’m wrong. Can’t hurt to put a book at $2.99 to see.

      It will be very interesting to see how long it takes to get a final resolution on the DOJ thing, as well as see how companies like Amazon will respond. In the end, whatever is best for the consumer, within reason, is what Amazon is likely to do – presuming it is also best for Amazon. Selling a $14 list price book that Amazon gets for $7 at $9.99 is a good deal for everyone. Consumers save money if they would have bought the $14 book anyway, and maybe they spend the saved $4 on one of mine, or on more books in general. Or maybe they don’t, and none of the will change much of anything in the long run. I think Scott Nicholson has it right when he says you want readers, not sales. I know I want readers who enjoy my work and want to tell their friends about the exciting new author they found. Whatever the price is that they acquire it for, they then have over a dozen opportunities to buy one of my books, be it a $3 or $5.

      In the end, I will just keep writing the best books I can, and hopefully enough will enjoy them so my readership continues to build. Can’t ask for more than that…

      Reply
  9. Sun 29th Jul 2012 at 3:19 am

    I think pricing is really hard, and what works for one indie writer might not work for another. As a reader, I tend to not pay more than $5.99 for an ebook because anything beyond that, I might as well get the paperback version — and why do that if I’m not sure the book is good? So yeah, it just depends on the person. I think pricing ebooks between $3-5 for full novels, $1-3 for novellas, and .99-$1.99ish for short stories is decent. But that’s just me, and that fluctuates from person to person.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 29th Jul 2012 at 11:33 am

      That seems to be the pricing most are now moving towards. Makes a certain kind of sense.

      Reply
  10. Sun 29th Jul 2012 at 11:58 am

    Well stated. As for me, I’ve raised all of my novels to 4.99 recently (although a couple of venues are dragging their feet which means so is Amazon). There were a lot of factors but the one that hit me all of a sudden occurred when I was downloading songs on Itunes and paying $1.29 for three minute singles. Now, there may be the occasional masterpiece (think Paul Simon) that is worth near as much or more than my 90,000 word novel(I’d been pricing from .99 to 2.99)that took me months to write, edit, and publish, but come on. I think a good novel is worth roughly what an album is and so my $4.99 price seems a bargain. I will continue to experiment and adapt as necessary, but that price seems quite fair.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 29th Jul 2012 at 1:16 pm

      My sense is that consumers are largely interested in bargains, but aren’t completely unreasonable, either. There is no free lunch in any lasting sense. I believe that the cheapskates will continue to milk free, and bless them for doing so. If occasionally someone actually reads one of the free downloads and likes it, groovy. I recently downloaded Boston Teran’s brilliant Giv, a Story of a Dog and America based on the title, read a few pages, and was hooked. So I have now discovered an author I will read more of. I didn’t race out and buy his other books, though, because I’m buried in books and work right now, but at some point, probably by the end of the year, I will try another one – and pay for the privilege. I recently paid $4.99 for RS Guthrie’s masterpiece, Dark Prairies, and am 50% through it (I had to stop to write JET – I can’t read and write at the same time. A quirk). I had no problem paying that. I didn’t feel cheated – I had read one of his other books for free, and liked the voice and the grasp of craft. So that’s another example of free working, albeit slowly. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been thinking long and hard about free recently. I look at my own behavior – sampling a few books free, tossing 98% of them within the first few pages, but liking 2% and putting the authors in my “good guys” pile, and I can’t help but think others probably do the same thing. So maybe I won’t be seeing the full effect of that free promo I ran in Feb until Christmas. But rather than some hypothetical consumer with hypothetical habits, I look at my own and wonder if most aren’t like that. It would explain a fair amount – why my regular fans have no problem paying whatever the cost of the book is, and why my sales don’t increase if I lower the price. Because others’ habits mirror mine, and they aren’t buying books at $2.99 to see if they like the author, they are getting the books free and trying them, then once they like something, convert into buyers who see value in the work. Apparently my readers see value and appreciate it at $5, whereas those who are unfamiliar with my work don’t – because until it’s a known quantity, it’s just another indie book, worth spit, or whatever the reader has decided unknown to them authors are worth.

      If that’s the case, then the free promos really are the way to broaden one’s readership, albeit sparingly. I look at the success and growth I’ve seen in one year and it is largely affected by the free thing – one might say that free put me on the map. Now, I also have a large backlist I’ve frantically developed, and I like to think my books are pretty unique and good, but the truth is that doesn’t mean anything unless you have exposure, and KDP Select bought me some. At a considerable short term cost to my brand, I’ll admit, but still, it worked. Of course the algorithms have now changed, as has the landscape, so that will likely never happen again. We must try to find the new new thing to get exposure next month, as last month’s tactics are ineffective.

      So I think the price point of $5 or thereabouts is taken as fair by most. There will be some, like the fellow who sent me the e-mail saying I had priced myself out of his library, but for every one of those, there will also be new readers who are delighted to find a new author with a decent body of work they can follow.

      My philosophy has always been that most of the growth happens over the holidays for about 90 days, and the rest of the year is kind of a holding pattern, at best – you try not to lose ground, and have to think in terms of the whole year, not day to day or week to week. This season I’ll be able to see whether that idea and approach is right or not. I’ll be releasing at least 3 novels from Sept to Dec, maybe 4, so there will be plenty of new meat in a variety of flavors for readers to discover. If sales stay flat, my theory is all wet. If they jump again to the next level, there is some merit to the idea.

      As always, it will be interesting to watch.

      Reply
      • robert bucchianeri  –  Mon 30th Jul 2012 at 9:15 am

        Good food for thought. I think your take is pretty much right on. I give away free books to readers who seem interested or interact with my on my website & twitter, but that’s a slow building process that has yielded a small number of “fans’ over the few months I’ve been trying. Your feeling that the 90 days around the holidays is the sweet spot is interesting and something I hadn’t really thought of before. Helpful, so thanks.
        I think the more books you have available the more targeted freebies & special deals are a credible option. I’ve got 4 novels up, shooting for 7 by the end of the year and 11 by the end of next year. If they’re good then, over time, they might just find the relatively small audience I’m seeking.

        Reply
  11. Andrew
    Mon 30th Jul 2012 at 7:22 pm

    If I may add my ha’penny’s worth, here in the UK we don’t have KDP, but we do have the free book thing, I think maybe the same ones & during the same time period as they are free in the US (some freebies will suddenly and annoyingly revert to full price at some random hour of the day, obviously a US time-related issue).

    I downloaded your free Assassin prequel, and finally got round to reading it about 8 weeks later, after reading various positive comments on the UK amazon kindle forum from others who’d read it. I enjoyed it, but did find it slightly ‘episodic’ and rather too short to be totally satisfying, and was left unsure if a full-length novel would cut the mustard. I then happened to, err, ‘acquire’ a copy of Fatal Exchange, via a file sharing site/cyber locker I think (hope you don’t mind! in a way it’s a compliment that people have started pirating your books!!), and absolutely loved it. I’ve since bought four more, plus another couple when they’ve been free.

    Without the initial freebie, I know I’d have never have heard of you (there are just far too many authors), and without managing to acquire a full length quality title for free I doubt I’d have started purchasing further books.

    Given the above, I’d suggest that having at least one ‘full length, quality’ type free book available would make sense, at least to cater to the ‘bit of a cheapskate to start with but quite interested in continuing to purchase books by a quality author’ demographic.

    Luck must also play a part – I’ve not got round to reading 95% of the freebies sitting on my kindle, and probably never will. So I guess in that sense the more copies of your books you can get out there the better.

    Reply
    • L.K. Rigel  –  Mon 30th Jul 2012 at 10:26 pm

      Andrew, I find your appalling and fascinating – that you comment on an author’s own website that you found the free book he gave you to be “rather too short to be totally satisfying” and that you then went on to steal another book from him, which you hope he doesn’t mind.

      Reply
      • L.K. Rigel  –  Mon 30th Jul 2012 at 10:28 pm

        Ach! And then you go on to suggest that he should give away yet another, longer book. Is this what is called cheeky in your country?

        Reply
      • yoon  –  Mon 30th Jul 2012 at 11:29 pm

        I don’t think Andrew meant to insult Mr. Blake with his remark about the free book. I did wince and shook my head when I read that remark, but after reading the entire comment, I think I kind of understand what he is trying to say. I think he’s trying to be helpful with his suggestion of making a full-length book availabe free because that’s what I’ve always thought Mr. Blake should do, to be more widely visible, rather than offering a short-length prequel. I actually think Fatal Exchange is perfect for that purpose. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read every single book by Mr. Blake so far, and to compensate for the books I got for free, I bought some for my friends as well. I don’t need him to offer any books free. But as a reader, nothing but a reader who doesn’t have any interest whatsoever in writing/publishing/selling books, I don’t usually buy a book by an indie author I’ve never heard of after reading a free short prequel either… well, actually I try to avoid downloading one unless it is a full-length book.

        He does seem cheeky, however. But then again, when well-known authors like Gaiman and Coelho are not only delighted by their works being pirated, but encouraging people to steal them, some people are bound to feel they are entitled.

        Just my two cents.

        Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Tue 31st Jul 2012 at 12:22 am

      Well, I have mixed feelings about giving away entire novels for free. On the one hand, it would be a good marketing ploy. On the other hand, it’s sort of publicly declaring that 100K words of well-edited, well-written novel with a professionally executed cover has zero value. Obviously the editor and proofreader and artist want to be paid, and it’s hard to do so with compliments, but then again, marketing has a cost, so if one things of it as an advertising cost, perhaps there is merit there.

      I will probably do one full length novel free next year. Why not? I wrote Night to be a giveaway, and figured that an episodic, well-crafted 50K book would be enough to get the juices flowing and familiarize readers with my approach. I may add content and get it to 60K or so over the next few months and leave it at that – many kindle books are around that length (none of my fiction novels other than Night are), and I’ve always felt it’s better to leave em wanting more…

      If I could write my own script I would have a series and do the first book free – a stand-alone book, not a prequel. But it takes a while to write one and edit it and create a cover, and then there is only value if you have three or four more to follow it with, thus my thinking that I had the right idea with Night. Given that KOS is my biggest seller over the last 3 months, even in the UK, it seems a valid approach.

      Thanks for buying four of my books. I hope you have enjoyed them all. In the end, that’s really what’s important to spreading the word. 99.9% of all readers have never heard of me, and there’s only one way to fix that, short of me marrying Pink or Oprah, or both.

      Reply
  12. Mon 30th Jul 2012 at 11:55 pm

    yoon – I understand your points. But just to let the world know, it’s never a compliment to an author to let them know how much you enjoyed their book that you got from someone who stole it from them.

    Like telling a waiter how great the service was, then not leaving a tip.

    Reply
  13. Wed 01st Aug 2012 at 7:15 am

    Mr. Blake,

    I was wondering who you use for editing services?

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 01st Aug 2012 at 10:53 am

      I am currently on the hunt for an editor – the one I’ve used on 13 of my novels has retired. So I have no recommendations for you at this point. I’ll let you know if I find someone competent.

      Reply
  14. Wed 01st Aug 2012 at 8:20 am

    Hey Russell…
    Interesting stuff. My first novel is coming out this fall (trad), and I’ve been kicking around what price I want to discuss with my publisher. He said early on he thought 2.99…now I’m not so sure. I’m like you, though. 99 cents just sounds cheesy to me. Like a used car salesman who is just interested in moving units. This whole writing/editing/cover/interview/guest blog/market/hobknob thing is eating a lot of time. Not that I mind, it’s fun and all – but it’s my time, and I don’t like selling my time cheap.
    Thanks for the great article…gave me some serious burger for thought…
    Oh. My last and seriously obvious comment is that I’m now following your site…I like your style…ciao
    Thomas
    http://thomasrydder.wordpress.com/http://thomasrydder.wordpress.com/

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 01st Aug 2012 at 10:52 am

      Glad it provided food for thought. While ultimately the marketplace will decide the right price for something, only you can place a value on your work. Pricing is a tough one, and there is no wrong or right answer – just the wrong or right one for you. Good luck with it.

      Reply
  15. Wed 01st Aug 2012 at 7:16 pm

    I follow what you are saying but a flow chart and a book/burger comparative candle graph would really drive it home for those of us who like pictures.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 01st Aug 2012 at 9:29 pm

      Look for it in my upcoming blog launching my first graphic novel about sexy vampires and honey badgers. Because pictures are just words for people who hate reading.

      Reply
  16. Sat 04th Aug 2012 at 7:21 pm

    I just finished Silver Justice, and downloaded The Fruits of Graft on your recommendation. I didn’t know Silver Justice was coming out, until Steven Konkoly mentioned it in an email. Great read!

    When I first started sampling free Kindle books, some were atrocious, a few were gems. So I still skim the free lists, but lately, most of those have been disappointing.

    Last year, I got the first book of Zero Sum free. I was impressed and bought the next two in the trilogy at $3.99 each.

    Books that are $2.99 from an unknown (to me) author don’t tempt me as much as books that are $3.99 or even $5.99 from an author I’ve read and enjoyed in the past.

    Paying much more than $6.99 per book for my casual reading pleasure is too much for my budget as a general rule.

    I don’t know if that tells you anything about your buying public, but that’s the way I buy!

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 04th Aug 2012 at 11:34 pm

      I think the sweet spot is $5. That’s my take. Plus or minus a buck. No surprise there. As you point out, it’s tough in today’s economy to spend much more.

      Fruits of Graft is dense but brilliant. It will sicken and amaze you. As it did me. Glad you liked SJ. Thanks for the glowing review.

      Reply
      • Nancy Barth  –  Sun 05th Aug 2012 at 12:11 am

        That price works for me! I’ve started Fruits of Graft, and I think I’m starting to understand the Laffer Curve, at least. I’m sure I’ll be re-reading parts of it over and over until I get it.

        I hope there’ll be more Silver Justice in the future! I don’t know how you did all the research AND wrote all the books you did over the last year or so.

        Reply
        • yoon  –  Sun 05th Aug 2012 at 12:56 am

          Butting in here to point out that Mr. Blake did not have to do much research for most of his books since he used to be a government assassin living a double life as a financier (think assassins’ lives in Bourne Identity, etc). Also he doesn’t really write these books himself, he makes his monkey to do it.

          Reply
          • Russell Blake  –  Sun 05th Aug 2012 at 2:02 am

            The monkey keeps demanding more margaritas and a raise. This won’t end well. Just saying.

        • Russell Blake  –  Sun 05th Aug 2012 at 1:52 am

          Laffer curve is simple. There’s a sweet spot with taxes, just as with book prices. At a certain price, you move the most books – generally a nominal price. With taxes the same – the lowest tax rate results in the most taxes being collected, as it’s not worth anyone’s time to cheat or avoid them. As prices/taxes increase, sales/compliance declines, but not in a straight line. There’s a point where there is a sweet spot – the point where the total sales revenues/tax revenues are maximized. Past that price/rate, revenues decline as fewer buy/comply, even though the take from those that do is larger.

          But with taxes, the higher the taxes, there’s another secondary effect beyond collections. The higher the tax rate, the lower the economic activity of the real economy (less incentive to try to earn money due to confiscatory taxes/less post tax dollars to re-invest in productive enterprises which then would produce more taxable revenue). It’s why the policy of taxing more generally doesn’t work past a certain point, and why pricing books above where sales/revenues are maximized in books or anything else is counter-productive.

          An example is a restaurant. It sells a ton of meals at $3, but is making only 30 cents. So it raises its prices to $5, and sales drop off by 40%, but it is now making $2.30, so net profit is still higher even with fewer meals sold. But it has alienated its base, so eventually fewer people come. So then it raises its prices to $7, reasoning that it needs to charge more to make the same. Resulting in even fewer dinners sold. Now it’s losing money because the cost of overhead – lights, spoilage, labor, etc. is still the same, but it is only selling 20% of the meals it did at $3. It is on the wrong end of the Laffer curve. That curve would say that the right area is probably $4-$5, no more. At $4 you might lose 15% of the crowd at $3, but you are netting 3X more profit. So slightly lower volume but way more net. Volume drops at $5, say to 50%, but fixed costs stay the same, resulting in a lower margin overall. You get the point. Nominal taxes tend to be the best idea, as is reasonable pricing in books. The Big 5 should be reading this comment, and that book.

          The easy way to think of it is a flat tax. If it was 10-15%, compliance would be high so most people would pay it. At 50%, compliance is going to be far lower, so even though those that do pay will have much more taken, the number who don’t pay will climb rapidly. At 65% everyone just stays home, or an underground economy that is cash based supplants the taxable economy. The Laffer curve attempts to describe that phenomenon. To me it’s simple. To most politicians it’s impossible to grasp. Go figure.

          On the research, I read voraciously, and not all of what I have in the books is based on one year of research. Let’s just say that I have lived a full and interesting life thus far, and draw upon my experience regularly.

          Reply
          • Nancy Barth  –  Wed 08th Aug 2012 at 10:48 pm

            I”m trying to figure out when you have time to read, with all the writing you’ve been doing!!

            Thank you for your further explanation of the Laffer Curve. I think you should send it to Congress and the President. Along with a copy of Silver Justice…

            When is your next book coming out?

          • Russell Blake  –  Thu 09th Aug 2012 at 1:15 am

            September 15 target date for JET. Am in rewrite now, and considering writing a second book with the protag this month. How I am going to get three more books done this year, maybe four, is another matter. Not a lot of time for reading or much of anything. Although gotta say that Dark Prairies is one I’m halfway through and it is extremely well written and engaging. RS Guthrie, and if you’re looking for something to read, you could do worse. Graceful and elegant use of language, cadence, imagery, dialogue, the whole works.

            The horrible part is that the truth of the Laffer curve is well known, but it politicians hate it, because it really says that the most efficient tax rate is the lowest possible. And there are too many special interests sucking the life out of the country to cut spending to where it should be, and reduce taxes so there is a real stimulus. Instead we get these weird post-tax stimulus programs that take money from those who made it, thereby reducing their capital available for reinvestment by the folks who made the money in the first place (so know how to deploy it efficiently), and give it to those who didn’t make it, or those that don’t need it, supposedly to create financial activity. Pure hokum. Like trying to drink yourself sober. Plain old doesn’t work. Not that I have an opinion. At least in Mexico everyone knows any government it has is a bunch of thieves. Only in the US does the population sort of think that they aren’t, at least not really.

            Of course they are. Why would anyone spend $100 million dollars to get a job that pays a quarter mil a year? Please.

            Don’t get me started. But Fruits of Graft ain’t a bad read, either, although depressing for what it says about how long this has been going on, and how pervasive the rot is.

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