The Indie Experiment Continues: Tags and Pricing for Ebooks

Despite the fact that I’ve gone back to dedicating a couple of days a week to marketing, Yseult still has not gotten back above ten copies a day in sales. At least it’s (mostly) hanging in there on the Top 100 list in historical fantasy. (Right now it’s off again, sigh.) But who knows, without my extra efforts it might have totally fallen off the radar by now. Just dropping marketing efforts completely for a couple of weeks is another experiment I should conduct in this brave new world of digital publishing. When I do, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Anyway, in order to learn a bit more about this new undertaking of mine, on my “marketing” days I’ve been hanging out on the Kindle Boards in the Writers’ Cafe section, reading threads that look promising from a marketing perspective, such as which book blogs out there will do reviews of ebooks. One of the things those wise folks with much more experience than me shared was the importance of “tags” for product placement on Amazon.

That sounded vaguely familiar to me, and I seemed to remember having read something about tags when researching selling ebooks in Kindle format. I even thought that I had listed several tags when uploading the book.

But when I went to look at the tags for Yseult (the tags are just below the customer reviews), several of the tags I thought I’d specified weren’t there. And a couple were there that were misleading: “Kindle free book” and “Kindle freebie” — but Yseult was only free for two days. Nonetheless, that meant anyone searching for free books would find mine and might well be disappointed.

Luckily, you can disagree with tags, which lowers their ranking. By default, Amazon only displays the ten most popular tags for any given item, and this also effects how it comes up in searches. And with the help of the folks on the Kindle boards, the “free” references have fallen off the top ten list for Yseult.

Another thing I’ve been reading a lot about lately is pricing. Many indie authors swear by the 99 cent ebook, even though you only get 35% royalties rather than 70%. The argument for the super-low price is that it’s so low, a lot of people will buy your book without thinking. But will you then be selling to your target audience? Will you be getting worse reviews because someone who usually reads military fiction picked up your romance entitled “Flames of Normandy”? Others say the 0.99 price point is starting to acquire a stigma (if the author is throwing her book away for less than a buck, it can’t be any good, right?) On the other end of the scale, I bumped into one guy who’s selling his fantasy ebooks for 6.99 a pop and is relatively successful at it. (Hey, if traditional publishing can do, why can’t I? Besides, I can pay the bills faster that way.)

There doesn’t seem to be any right or wrong where pricing is concerned; you just have to experiment. But here’s a bit more reading on the matter, if you’re interested:

Are eBooks Too Cheap?: Indie Authors Question 99 Cent Price

Zoe Winters on E-book Pricing: Does Low-balling Attract the Wrong Kind of Reader?

Anyway, I’m going to be experimenting with pricing a bit myself and intend to raise the price of Yseult to 4.95 come Feb. 1. It is a 190,000 word novel that took me years to write, after all. If the price makes my sales disappear into nothingness, I can change it again. That’s one of the joys of being an ebook author — I’m in control. And you know what? On my 2.99 ebook I’m earning about the same per book as I did for the German hardcover at 19.95 Euros.

As far as balance is concerned (see my last couple of posts), organizing tasks in days rather than hours seems to be working quite well for me. I’m about a fourth of the way through editing Shadow of Stone. Next week, I want to send the first chapter to several professional editors to decide who to hire. After that, I should soon be able to announce a tentative publication date for the follow-up novel to Yseult.

I would be curious — how many of you would be willing to pay 4.95 for an ebook? I’ve paid that much a few times, especially before a vacation when I didn’t want to be lugging too many heavy books around. But I may be pushing the envelope a bit here, especially as a new indie author, and despite all my other publications, which don’t seem to count for much in this brave new world, as much as I like it. 🙂

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2 thoughts on “The Indie Experiment Continues: Tags and Pricing for Ebooks”

  1. Great post. You’ve really got me thinking. I have absolutely no problem paying $4.95 for an author I know something about. That’s what I love about social media; I get to know authors and get a feeling for their style and personality. Since I read many genres, it helps me narrow things down. The 99 cent price to me is more about trying something I’m completely unsure about.

    Where I get frustrated… when paperbacks are close to Kindle/ebook prices. I would rather have the book or skip it if I don’t know anything about the author. I’m willing to take a $2-4 risk, less so a $6-9 risk.

    I hope you will continue to share your marketing experiences. I will be hanging on every word! I am putting my novel on Smashwords soon and have been deliberating the price (mine is 176,000 words and took me 10 years to write).

    1. Heh, exactly, Tia! Yseult is a little under 190,000 words. 🙂 But like I said in my post, one of the joys of self-publishing is that the author is in control.

      Glad you like the marketing posts and are getting something out of them!

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