Defining a winning strategy – update

straegyimageA few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about defining a winning strategy. I laid out my ideas, and explained my thinking about pricing. I decided that today it was time for an update. (You can find the original post HERE if you haven’t read it.)

Some of you eagle eyed readers may have noticed that – contrary to my last post – from 1st May the price of Only the Innocent and The Back Road both dropped to £0.99. You can check them both out by clicking the title links, but I thought I should explain what has happened.

This is an intrinsic part of my strategy, and not a change of heart!

I have to admit that after my last post, the temptation to drop the price of The Back Road to 99p did prove quite hard to resist, once I’d realised that only books that were either extremely well known or under £1 had much of a chance in the Amazon chart. But I did my sums, and I decided that 70% of £1.99 would overall bring me a better financial return than 35% of 99p – despite the much higher sales figure of books in the top 5. Quite how long I would have hung on to that stubborn resistance if my book had fallen out of the top 100, I don’t know – but fortunately for me, it didn’t. For any of you who aren’t aware, Amazon has two different royalty rates depending on the price of your book. The lower prices attract a 35% royalty, whilst anything over £1.49 is paid a 70% royalty (less a few pence for distribution costs).

So why are both books 99p now?

One result of maintaining the higher price has been that I have been selected for an Amazon promotion. There is a “100 books for under £2.99” promotion each month, and to be selected, a book has to have a price that Amazon can effectively reduce. They select the price point, so I waited with bated breath to find that they have reduced both The Back Road and Only the Innocent to £0.99.

The advantage of this promotion is that even though the price is reduced and my royalty is based on 99p, I still get 70% of that price. I was delighted that they agreed to do this for Only the Innocent as well as The Back Road, because to be honest I had decided that Only the Innocent was now an ‘old’ book, and had more or less stopped promoting it. The major discovery in all of this has been that the books really do sell each other – when The Back Road hit the number 2 spot, Only the Innocent raced up the charts to number 30.

The timing for the price reduction is good. The Back Road has been out for six weeks now, and has started to be mentioned in a few forums. It has been selected as one of the four “Books for May” in the Goodreads UK forum, and been awarded “A MUST READ” status by the reviewers. It’s had a few reviews on blogs – and great reviews on Amazon. However, I have to say that it’s been more difficult to generate buzz about the book than I would have expected. Much of this is down to the changing face of the forums.

When Only the Innocent was launched, I know that some of its success was down to lots of chatter on key forums – but it all feels a little different now. People used to chat a lot, get to know each other, buy each other’s books. Now it seems that most people just post their promo and move onto the next thread where they can post exactly the same thing. I was suckered in to doing something similar – it seemed the way to go. But it’s not particularly effective, because few people are reading what other people post.

As a result, yesterday I set up my own discussion group on Goodreads, and there are already 41 members. We can chat about books, and other authors can join in too. You can check it out here if you’re a member of Goodreads. I’m going to generally stick to places where I can chat and share information and thoughts with others now.

I have to admit that in spite of not achieving the buzz that I had hoped for in the forums, the result of dropping the price has been pretty impressive. The Back Road has gone from around position 70 in the charts to number 11 today. Only the Innocent has risen from 277 to 24 since the 1st May – just 4 days ago.

It would, however, be a mistake to suggest that this is purely down to an Amazon promotion. The third highest rated title (after my two) in the Crime, Thrillers and Mystery category of the promotion is at number 157 in the charts, so currently quite a way behind.

The stark reality is that to gain visibility for a book, the vast majority of the work is still down to the author. Once it gets into the top 10, I think an author can have little impact, because the sales numbers are high, and it’s unlikely that a Twitter or Facebook campaign would significantly impact upon those numbers. But to get there in the first place, there are no short-cuts. Amazon promotions will undoubtedly help – particularly if they are tied into email campaigns – but any hopes I had of forgetting all about marketing and getting on with the next book have actually proved to be little more than a pipe-dream.

So – that’s my update. The key findings are:

  • financially I’m very happy that I stuck to the £1.99 price
  • it’s very clear that a sub £1 price is very attractive to readers, who are more likely to take a risk on an unknown author
  • the forums are not as useful as they used to be
  • it’s harder to create a buzz about a book
  • there is no shortcut to marketing
  • books by the same author sell each other

The conundrum comes in the last two, of course, because whilst marketing – I’m not writing the next book!

As always – comments, please!

And if you would like to benefit from the current 99p price point, click on the book covers below to go to Amazon.

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Bestseller on Amazon