sa09 rises but does not shine / book pricing considerations update

10 03 2011

It’s another day for you and me in paradise.

sa09 heroines is underway. Like sa08, I’m kind of making it up as I go along; I have a loose outline, I know where it ends, but the nuts and bolts of who says what and how scenes blend is being done on the fly. This is going to be a weird ride, but I’m confident it’ll work in the end.

With both books for sale in print and Kindle format we’re on the way to building a respectable library here. Many of you have already ordered your copies, either in paper or bits, and I thank you for that. Loan them to friends, get the word out, see if we can branch beyond the web.

Someone suggested on my Facebook that I’d sell a lot more copies if I dropped the price of the Kindle version from $9.99 to $0.99. This kinda worries me and gives me nasty doubt. I’d make jack/squat off sales if I drop to the absolute floor of what Kindle allows, and just because some bestselling author sold 350,000 copies doesn’t mean my barely-heard-of series would sell enough to justify the drop. Plus, people who already paid 10 bucks (or 16 for the paper one) would skin me alive. Is all that worth it for a potential leap in sales? Ask any iPhone developer. It’s a risk. I’m not sure if it’s a risk I want to take. What do you think?

And, as always, your feedback on sa09 is welcome. Exploring Carrie Lane’s predicament is going to be a fascinating character study for me. Hopefully, for you as well.

EDIT: Based on comments below, I’m considering making The First Age a ‘catalog title’ with a discount. I’ll do the same thing for Forsaken Shores in several months. So, early adopters pay more, but get the advantage of being early adopters… they can enjoy the bonus stories ahead of more frugal readers. They also get the warm, fuzzy feeling of knowing they gave more money to their favorite author than others did.

Unless there are any objections, I’ll initiate the price changes soon. I’m thinking $12 book, and $5 Kindle/Donation. (Can’t drop the printed book much farther due to the pricing structure.)

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25 responses

10 03 2011
eyeless1

Micropayments
Honestly, I don’t think lowering what you charge will be all that useful. Aside from the supply-and-demand issue, and the potential backlash issue, there’s the problem that micropayments, that is, transactions of $.99 or less, still aren’t really as much of a no-brainer online as they are in a vending machine, or in the check-out line at a supermarket. You can’t just drop a buck extra at the cash register or machine and go; you have to enter a password, or a credit card number, or jump through various hoops to download your book. All of these things cost time, time which people use to think over whether they really want to make that impulse buy, or if they just want to go elsewhere/put it off, etc. There’s also the fact that people are still somewhat reluctant to trust the computer with their credit card info, for good reason. That time and privacy cost will be the same regardless of whether the ebook is $9.99, $.99, or even $.01, and means you are not likely going to sell 10-20 times as many ebooks as will be necessary to make the price adjustment worthwhile.
Music is the obvious counter-example, but music is in a far different situation than ebooks, IMO. Music labels are forced to sell at 99-cents these days because they’ve spent a decade training people to think of mp3s as the free stuff you download online. They did this by focusing on restricting access to their work, forcing people to go outside normal channels (eg. to Napster or eMule or whatever) to find what they were looking for, to the point that now everyone thinks it’s “normal” to get music for free, or nearly-free. Books don’t yet have that problem because, ironically, ebooks have been prominent on the internet for less time than music, and for the most part booksellers are giving people the convenience they demand, so prices probably won’t drop like a stone the way they did for music.

10 03 2011
eyeless1

Story Comment
I’ve got to say, for all your professed worries on LJ, forging out into the wilderness with nothing but a general destination and a distinctive character or two worked out well for you last chapter. Kas in particular is, IMO, one of the most distinctive characters I’ve seen from you in awhile. I find myself interested in her as a character, as opposed to say Scout or Jesse whom I view more as plot drivers: I’m more interested in what they will do rather than who they are.
Time will tell if our little Astro Gal will grow into such a character. The Applied Phlebotinum that made her long traumatic event fade into indistinctness worries me a little, as it seems designed to make her more generic rather than more unique, but you’ve surprised us many times before.

10 03 2011
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Re: Story Comment
Orbitals are ALL about the Phlebotinum. But in this case, I don’t think the Phlebotinum is going to be a problem; clearly it was still a traumatic experience that she’s feeling the impact of on an ongoing basis, given the nightmare she had. The dampener simply meant she was ABLE to recover at all from something no human being has ever gone through (two hundred years of isolation). As Doc notes, it can’t erase the pain, just make it manageable.

10 03 2011
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Re: Micropayments
I think though that this is a problem which is fading rapidly, over time. The success of iTunes as a music, video, and application platform is because you put in your card info ONCE and you’re done — it taps that card anytime you order something on the spot through your phone. Zero hoops.
Amazon is similar; many people already have an Amazon account, and through 1-Click ordering, can grab anything they want on an impulse. That includes Kindle books.
I can’t target the “I’m scared/confused over buying stuff online” audience at all, be it with ebooks or print books or t-shirts or whatever. For them, the free stories on the website will have to do, because that’s as far as they’re willing to go.
The question is whether I can spread anachronauts on a wider scale if the price drops. But… given I just said it’s available for free on the website, I wonder if my situation is different. It’s ALREADY ready for widespread reading. The part that isn’t is the bonus material, which could command a premium price as it is a bonus and not the core experience.

10 03 2011
tozetre

Re: Micropayments
One the one hand, yes, you’ve got it out there for free, which is what Doctorow and Ringo do. On the other, the 99 cent cost takes advantage of long-tail economics. I would say that everyone gets that the $10 digital copy is basically a donation to you; they could download for free, but they choose to buy it anyway, to support an author they like.
Presumably your sales have an initial hump and then taper off. At which point, your hardXcore fans have bought your stuff, and the remaining sales are likely from people who want to risk buying from a new author, or who trickle in from your trufans proselytizing. In other words, dropping the price on the first book to 99 cents right now probably won’t cost you that much in sales, and will encourage impulse buyers for the online formats. Watch for the long tail, and hit it with reduced prices.

10 03 2011
lirazel

I like this, I really, really like this.
Being immortal in a mortal world sucks, even when you’re not a teenager.

10 03 2011
doxxxicle

If you do consider a price drop, consider dropping it half-way to $5 instead of all the way down to $0.99. I would only drop it down to $0.99 after your sales have dropped off considerably. I have found that I have a much easier time rationalizing buying a book at $5 than at $10.
Keep the second book at $9.99. It’s a new book. People should be expected to pay a new book price for it. The experience of reading it in properly formatted ebook form rather than reading it of a webpage (which really doesn’t render nicely for reading on an iPhone, for example) should be worth the price if they want it now.

10 03 2011
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Re: Micropayments
That’s a very good point. The $10 copies aren’t screwjobs if they exist at that price for the initial spike, and then once the next book is out, it drops down. That’s the reason why hardcovers come out first, followed later by the mass-market paperback versions.
I’ll consider dropping First Age a bit, now that it’s clearly in Long Tail mode. It sells MAYBE a copy a month, now.

10 03 2011
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Yeah. I’m thinking a discount, not flooring, makes sense for the older book now that it’s hot phase is over. Catalog titles shouldn’t keep their initial prices forever.
I’m wondering what I can do to improve the iPhone experience. I use an iPhone myself and would like to see the series render well on it. I’m wondering if it’s the banner/footer tables causing the problem… something to look into.

10 03 2011
jengagne

The other factor to consider, I think, is this:
Kindle is $10 (now)
Donation gift bonus story version is $10, to be equivalent.
So if he drops the Kindle price to $1 (or $5) then he’d have to also drop the donation gift bonus story to the same price.

10 03 2011
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

I’m fine with that. (Definitely $5 instead of $1, though. I haven’t completely lost my marbles.)

10 03 2011
jengagne

— I love how you’re handling this first scene. The power outage, but flicking on the light anyway, how it eventually leads to full-on revelation of nightmare. Poor Carrie!
— extendible — extensible maybe?
— witha — with a
— Interesting, so the Orbitals are moving out and integrating. I was wondering if they’d do that sooner than later.
— Chir-Beep — d’awwwwr. :D
— I’m liking Doc so far.
— I think how Carrie’s reacting and feeling comes across as natural and realistic (as realistic as it can be considering her unique nature.) Good job.

10 03 2011
lirazel

FWIW, it renders just fine on an Android.

11 03 2011
luridel

I’m not going to let myself read sa09 until I do my homework for the weekend (Anachronauts is the light at the end of the tunnel after several hours of math), buuuuut just saying I’d keep the price the way it is.
I’m not sure if I’m the only one who’s waiting for all the books to be released so I can buy hard copies of all of them as a set, but when I do, I’d rather pay more than less. (I don’t think I’ve ever said “I’d rather pay more than less” in my life before.) Seriously, they charge $1.25 for bottled water around here, and I’d think your writing is worth more than that, even if (or maybe especially because) it’s also available for free.

11 03 2011
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

You can always buy the books AND donate directly through Paypal. Consider it a two-step version of the “pay what you want” price tag.

11 03 2011
kamalloy

Price reduction seems fair to me. It’s like buying a video game when it first comes out; the price will inevitably go down, so it’s a decision as to whether or not the fun of having it sooner balances out the extra cost. I’m in the fun of having it sooner camp. ;)
Speaking of, my copy of Forsaken Shores arrived yesterday! Loved the bonus story, although I will keep my commentary on it to that for now. ^^

11 03 2011
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

I wish I could find a way for book owners to discuss the bonus stories without it being spoilery / freeloadery for everyone else.
Next best thing is to email me your feedback. I won’t confirm or deny anything (unless you’re wildly off track because my writing wasn’t that great)

11 03 2011
carlo_one

Pricing
I’m one of those people who downloads books (mostly free) in Kindle format (and also bought a Kindle) because of readability/comfort issues. PDF files on a computer screen unfortunately don’t cut it for an extended reading experience (at least for pleasure). So I’m willing to pay a premium for the experience over a free download, as well as supporting Project Twoflower. The bonus material doesn’t hurt, either.
That said, I’ll offer my personal opinion that a price point of around $5 might be more appropriate. Big-time published works clock in around $10-$13. I just saw Ender’s Game up for $6.99 (as a random example of a truly outstanding book at the top of the SF bestseller list).
I tend to think that you’d draw in more people for the entire series if the individual work’s price is a bit lower, as the reader wouldn’t want to leave things unfinished. I would think you’d get more traffic once the price hits single digits. So, somebody reticent for $10 might well take the plunge at $5 ($4.99, whatever) and then buy the others at the same price.
I too am a government worker, so any entrepreneurial observations should be taken with a grain of salt.

11 03 2011
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Re: Pricing
I’m definitely lowering the price on the Kindle version of First Age to $5. I’m just waiting for the Kindle store to approve the changes, then I’ll announce it. Forsaken Shores I’ll keep at $10 but will be dropping in a few months time; sort of a hardcover/massmarket release schedule.
I prefer the Kindle, myself. I have trouble physically holding a book up, angling it this way and that while lying down for maximum comfort. The Kindle is a lot easier to hold, read, and navigate through in comparison.

12 03 2011
Anonymous

iPhone version
I think the iPhone problem comes from line 14 in the .css file. (font-size: smaller) You’re telling the main text to be rendered smaller, so the iPhone does just that and cram more characters per line.
You may consider making the font bigger or making some iPhone specific css rules.
-HP

12 03 2011
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Re: iPhone version
Problem is, without that, the font is a little too large by default. Maybe if I specified an exact point size… but I want to make sure it can be upscaled/downscaled for people with reading issues.
I’ll do some experiments. Once I get my damn iPhone working again.

12 03 2011
doxxxicle

Re: iPhone version
There’s some CSS trickery you can do to set the size of the viewport for the iPhone so that it will not horizontally scroll. That should make it a more pleasant reading experience at least.

12 03 2011
Anonymous

Re: iPhone version
You can also specifically Safari Mobile user only like so:
@media screen and (max-device-width: 480px){
p.prose{
font-size: bigger;
}
}
So that way iPhone users get the bigger version and the rest of us get the normal version.

13 03 2011
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Re: iPhone version
Genius! I shall give that a try when I settle in to do some experiments. Thank you, Anon!

13 03 2011
Anonymous

Re: iPhone version
Oops, I forgot to leave my signature °^_^. I should really get an account somewhere ^^ . Anyway, some addedum: the code snippet I gave you should be placed at the *end* of your css file, otherwise the normal css instructions will probably supersede the special iphone one.
Also I found out that the following code gave satisfactory result on my old ipod touch 2g:
@media screen and (max-device-width: 480px){
/*--- iPhone only CSS here ---*/
body {
font-size: 40px;
}
p.prose{
margin-bottom: 40px; /* Paragraph feel a little bit crumped without this*/
}
}

This should not only resize the .prose text but also all the other type of text (the definition at the beginning of each chapter, etc…) thanks to your use of the “smaller” properties instead of a fixed size property.
Now the only thing left to fix is the tedious scrolling if you left a page and want to read one particular passage at the middle or end of a chapter…
-HP

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