Columns > Published on October 16th, 2012

Adventures In Self-Publishing Part 3: So, Can We Talk About Some Stuff?

It's an oft-repeated piece of advice in the realm of self-publishing: you get out what you put in. The harder you work, the more copies you sell; nothing sells in a vacuum, and you can't expect to climb the ranks by sitting around and doing nothing. 

That's true! I know because I've been extremely busy this month, and haven't been able to dedicate much time to convincing people to buy my novella, and as you can see from the numbers below, my lack of effort shows. 

This isn't to say I don't want to sell it. It's just hard to find the time. As with all artistic pursuits, real life gets in the way. 

So, unfortunately, this won't be a terribly long column this month. But that's fine. There's some things I'd like to discuss. I need some help to do that. I'm hoping to hear from people who've read the novella (I'm sure a few of you out there have), and those who haven't. 

Pricing

So, as I've said, this is an experiment in self-publishing. I've introduced a new variable, to see if it'll affect sales: Lower pricing. 

When you sell though Amazon, you get a 70 percent return on anything priced $2.99 or above. Below that, you get a 35 percent return (that's an oversimplification--find more information from Amazon here... and also, the other sales sites have similar numbers). I initially priced the novella at $2.99, in part because I thought the work I put into it was worth three bucks, but also because I wanted that 70 percent return--who wouldn't?

A week ago I dropped the price to 99 cents, to see what would happen. It hasn't moved the needle a whole lot, but again, I haven't been doing much to sell it. (Oh, and if you are really upset that you bought it at the higher price before the discount, let me know and one day I will buy you a drink).

The novella is estimated at 62 pages on Amazon. I spent a whole ton of time writing it. I feel like it's worth $2.99--but it's the customer who matters, right? 

What do you make of this whole pricing thing? People say that the rush to the bottom on eBook pricing devalues writers and their work. Others feel that, due to the nature of eBooks (no storage, printing or shipping costs), they should be priced cheaply.

So here's a point of discussion, and I could use some help here: Do you think the initial price of $2.99 is too steep? Is 99 cents too low, or just right?

Would you buy it for $2.99? Would anyone begrudge me charging that price point? Are you more encouraged to buy it at 99 cents? 

Panhandlin' for reviews

Here's another thing I'm having a tough time with: reviews. I want to ask people to review the novella, but I don't. I feel weird about it. On one hand, I hope they'll give it an honest assessment. On the other hand, I figure people I know and love will probably be kind. And good reviews are important on sites like Amazon--the more good reviews you have, the higher you rank, the more people see you, the more people are convinced to buy. 

Some authors, like RJ Ellory, game the system in the worst way possible--creating fake accounts to leave praise for their own work and deride the work of their "competitors." I don't think asking for reviews is the same thing--but it sort of feels like cheating. 

I feel very lucky to have five 5-star reviews on the novella right now at Amazon. (Full disclosure: One is my mom.) I'd love to get some more but I find myself not wanting to ask for it, so I was hoping maybe we could talk this through. So you know me. I write this column and I wrote a novella and I write other goofy things on this site. If I asked you to review the book, how would you react? 

Would you feel imposed upon? Does it bother you when writers ask for reviews? Or do you think it's par for the course in the age of self-publishing? 

Other updates

One thing that happened this month, that's causing me quite a bit of consternation: someone returned a copy of the novella to Amazon! It bums me out, because Amazon doesn't tell you why the novella was returned. Did the person buy it by accident? Did they buy it and not like it? Did someone accidently buy two copies and return one? I have no idea! And it's tearing me up inside!

Also, I mentioned last month that I had applied for the Kindle Singles program, which would have resulted in very nice marketing boost. I got rejected. Not entirely surprising, as it's a tough program for self-pubbed authors to crack. Nook has a similar program. I'm going to give that a shot. 

And I know I mentioned that I'd be looking into making the book available in some more places--Smashwords, at least. Still need to look into that. But soon! Promise. 

Discussion time!

So that's it. Check out my updated numbers below, and let's get to the discussion period. I'm sorry it's been a slow month--I've been completely slammed at work--but I'm planning to put some more effort into selling this thing, so we have some more actual stuff to talk about next month. 

Sales tally:

  • Amazon: 45 (up 20 from last month)
  • Barnes & Noble: 14 (up 10 from last month)
  • Kobo: 0
  • Total eBooks sold: 59
  • Total copies returned: 1

About the author

Rob Hart is the class director at LitReactor. His latest novel, The Paradox Hotel, will be released on Feb. 22 by Ballantine. He also wrote The Warehouse, which sold in more than 20 languages and was optioned for film by Ron Howard. Other titles include the Ash McKenna crime series, the short story collection Take-Out, and Scott Free with James Patterson. Find more at www.robwhart.com

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