The Irregular Creatures One-Month Annivalentine’s Daysary Extravabonanza!

Cat-Bird Banner: Irregular Creatures

It’s Valentine’s Day weekend.

It’s also the one-month anniversary (“monthiversary?”) of the release of IRREGULAR CREATURES, my collection of nine short stories which features (but is not limited to): a family household that serves as ground zero for a battle of good versus evil fought by flying cats; a Bangkok dancer whose ahem nether regions are so spectacular that they surely do not belong to a mere human; a working man who learns the true cost of fighting zombies; and a boy who gets lost in an otherworldly auction where a mermaid’s innocence is put on the chopping block.

To celebrate, I’ve decided to drop the price on the collection down to the so-low-I-just-pooped-my-pants price of ninety-nine cents ($0.99)!

(This is true only for the Kindle release.)

The price will hold true until cough-cough at some point on Monday or Tuesday. Sorry — it’s hard to predict with Amazon. I’d so love it if I could change product descriptions and prices on the fly, but I can’t — Amazon puts even the teeny-tiniest of changes (“I just added a comma to my product description!”) through a review process, which takes 24-48 hours.

So –

Go now and procure the collection for the wild-and-wacky-bargain-basement-how-will-I-be-able-to-afford-my-heart-pills-and-by-heart-pills-I-mean-Pez-and-tequila price.

IRREGULAR CREATURES: $0.99.

Tell your friends. Hell, tell your enemies. Gift them a copy if you so desire.

Then leave a review on Amazon.

Decisions, Decisions

I mentioned this sale yesterday on the Twitter-Tubes and received a handful of comments (all welcome) that asked why I was doing this, or suggested that maybe it wasn’t an ideal solution, or (the nicest of them all) noting that the collection was worth more than that. Seems then like a good idea to peel back the layer a little bit. Like an onion. Or a sunburn. Or a rejected skin graft.

I am not a fan of the ninety-nine cent price point. I am especially not a fan of it as the end-all be-all price of something. I’m not knocking any author who chooses that path — I just think that a novel or collection is worth more than a song on iTunes (but maybe less than an album on iTunes). I want authors to value their content and, further, I want readers to value the content, too. Is a race to the bottom really the way to go?

Further, if you go the bottom-bitch pricing at Amazon, Amazon takes a more robust cut. One assumes that this is because they’re trying to train authors to keep their prices a little higher. Which is good for Amazon and good for the author and ultimately, I agree.

I sell the collection at $2.99, I get about two bucks. I sell it at $0.99, I get thirty cents.

And yet, other authors report surging numbers at the lower price. Some of that makes sense — you look at app-pricing, well, some apps are far lower than what I would consider to be their value. After having played Angry Birds, I’d tell you that the game is worth ten bucks, easy. But by pricing low, they got me to commit without thinking twice — and, given the humongous sales numbers, were able to hook millions of others accordingly. Price point isn’t the only factor there, but I suspect it’s a big one.

Lower your price on Amazon, you might convince uncertain buyers to take a risk because, shit, a buck is cheap. That’s “taco truck” cheap. If enough buyers bite to put the product in the higher sales rankings, then the product becomes more discoverable. Then, if the price goes back up, it does so ideally while amongst those higher rankings. One assumes that some degree of psychology is at work here. I know it’s true for me that when I check out paid apps on iTunes, I look to see what’s in the Top 10 (or at least Top 50) first — I assume, however incorrectly, that the top rankings are likelier home to a greater percentage of quality apps. So too with Amazon. I find myself skimming the top rankings periodically just to see what’s there. Getting into that echelon is not without value.

The big thing is, it will at least reveal the value — or the lack of value — in making such a move. If it doesn’t yield significant results, I’m not likely to do it again. I view this collection as something of a canary in a coal mine — I want to see how the bird behaves when I throw it into a mine tunnel filled with different gases. It’s not a perfect test, but it’ll yield me some data. And at this stage, data is just as valuable as cold hard cash.

I recognize that this isn’t purely scientific, but being a writer without a significant math brain, I don’t see any great way of turning this into an officially official experiment. I don’t have a control product. I can’t account for an unholy host of uncontrollable (or indiscernible) elements. But one thing I have at my disposal is price — by changing it, I’m throwing a pebble in the water and watching the ripples.

I think it was Jeff Tidball who noted that Gameplaywright doesn’t drop the price on their books or offer sales because it burns the early adopters. Which is true, to a point, and if anybody feels burned here — well, you have my uttermost apologies. My assumption, however, is that we as consumers are not that sensitive. I bought World of Goo for fifteen bucks on the PC, then it came onto the iPad for ten bucks. I waited, and it dropped to five bucks on a sale, and I picked it up. This weekend, it’s ninety-nine cents. I’m not pissed. Hell, I bought it twice because I loved it and was happy to support the creators of the game.

The television I bought was more expensive the week before I bought it, and cheaper the month after I bought it. As a consumer, price wobbles like that occur. Sales or discounts are common. Still, if anybody feels stung over it, you have my apologies, and the next time I see you, I’ll buy you a beer. Or give you a hug. Or hire a hobo to caress your junk with tickling calluses.

Quick Sales Update

Sales continue to be slow and steady. Three to five sales a day, with 280 sales after a month of being “out there.” About 65% of my sales are through Amazon, and 35% of my sales are through here, via PDF/ePub.

Not bad, ultimately. We’ll see what happens from here.

The flimsy self-publishing experiment continues.

Contain your mirth; this is a new carpet.

What Can You Do?

If you read the collection and liked it, definitely leave a review on Amazon. Further, please tell others — word of mouth is the best vector any author has of getting readership.

Otherwise, you just keep doing what you do best. Sit there, looking pretty, you handsome blog audience, you. With your lovely eyelashes and your lashing whip-like tail.

24 comments

  • *I’m not worthy*
    You can’t see it, but I am bowing in deference to your greatness. I finally got around to purchasing “Irregular Creatures” and I feel totally stupid for not doing it earlier, except I wouldn’t have been able to do the read/review assignments I already had. I’m not going to sleep until I finish it. Cuz that’s how awesome it is. In closing, I’d just like to say, “cock-waffle”.

  • Bought it already and feel no shame that it has become cheaper for a while. I only kick myself for that if I miss a huge sale on something by a day or so. (Like say 80% off a video game I just bought for $30 the day before.)
    Just left a review on amazon, hope it helps.
    And of course the spare copy I won (a spare copy of an electronic file, what an odd concept) I gave to my dad, so I have spread the word.

  • People if you’re reading this and wondering if Irregular Creatures is worth it, it is. The stories are well written and varied. Now that it’s 99 cents it’s worth it three times over.

    What are you still doing here?

    Go, buy two, frame one (metaphorically speaking)

  • Unsurprisingly, twitter is not the best for nuanced commentary. To clarify: I don’t disagree with the plan of a 99-cent sale. I only meant to note that any sales goose you get cannot necessarily be attributed to the sale. This is particularly true when you do it over such a small period of time. You almost certainly will get some kind of sales goose. The question, of course, is whether you get enough of a goose to compensate for the lower price (and factoring in the benefit of broader exposure). That last point is not to be underestimated, particularly for a first effort. If you release a novel in ebook format now, you will have that many prior customers to sell to.

    In any case, good luck with it.

    • @Justin —

      Thanks!

      It’s not possible to absolutely confirm the reason behind it (lest we fall into, what, the fallacy of the single cause?), but I will say that since announcing the price drop last night, my sales *did* spike. I’ll talk more about these numbers when they’re “all in” next week, but this kind of spike hasn’t happened outside of the first two days of sales.

      Now, cost justification is the other part. I have to sell six-point-five copies at ninety-nine cents to make up the cost for one copy at $2.99 — but I’ve already been told by a few that the ninety-nine cent price did in fact get them off the fence. And hopefully the writing stands for itself in just a way that, should I release a novel this way, they won’t see the purchase as a risk.

      More as I know it! :)

      — c.

  • hmm… $2.99 for Irregular Creatures, that is now $0.99. That is a drop of $2. $4 for a beer, but that’ll be free thanks to Mr. Wendig provided…

    “Sir! I am wounded!”

    Honestly, good luck. Hope it gets up into the top 50. It’s damn good stuff!

  • I’m heading over to Amazon to buy it right now, not because it’s .99 but because I just started reading your blog and you made me blow Coke Zero out of my nose.

    I’ve only dipped a toe into the Kindle/Smashwords self-publishing digital realm (though I’ve been e-published for years, YEARS, I tellz ya!) and the only work I’ve put up there so far has been reprints of older stories for which I got my rights back.

    I agree, a novel is worth more than a song. But beyond that, I think ebooks should be priced competitively with paper books — lots and lots of things to consider — so I went with…length. A short story should be cheaper than a novella which is cheaper than a novel…but other than that, I’m a writer. I can barely add and subtract without a calculator!

    M

  • February 11, 2011 at 9:39 AM // Reply

    I just recommended this to my mother. Yes, my MOTHER. What the hell was I thinking?

    Not that she won’t like it, she’ll love it. I mean, she’s read my stuff and hasn’t disowned me, yet. It’s a little embarrassing. And this collection’s worlds above my crap.

    I got her hooked on The Hunger Games and she just burned through those books last week.

    My problem? She’s got a Nook. Which means that I’ll be getting the PDF onto her reader. Tech support and parents are always fun. But it’s worth it.

    I expect a lot of “Does he have anything else I can read?” very soon.

  • Regarding the notion that you’re burning early adopters, I wonder if the “burned” are just people who bought the collection and didn’t like it? I was an early adopter and considered $2.99 to be money well spent. “That was definitely worth $2.99,” I thought. If I didn’t like the collection and later learned that it was now $0.99, I might feel a twinge of remorse for the two bucks lost. The time to decide whether you’ve been burned is after you’ve bought and read the book, not weeks later when the price goes down.

  • I haven’t heard the 99-cent bashing arguments you mention, so I don’t know how well they’re made, but I’ll say this: I think it’s worthwhile to have something available at various price points. I’ve got both a novel and a collection on Kindle for $2.99, but just the other day, I put up a short story for 99 cents. It helped sales of both the other two, as well. I’m actually intrigued by the idea of short stories a la carte on Kindle, which seems, as a device, tailor made for such. I plan to do it with other stuff, too, but I don’t think I ultimately plan to collect them together, especially when I can do it this way and then add commentary via my site, if I so choose. Which I mention because I used to love short story collections less for the stories than for the added insight reading author’s forewords and epilogues and commentary provided.

    I think you’re right that a novel is worth more than a song on iTunes. I think a short story is worth about as much as a song. But a novel . . . I’d say a novel is worth as much as an album, but I think most iTunes albums are egregiously overpriced, mainly because of labels. If more artists could sell direct through iTunes, I think they could cut prices down to the same three or four bucks so many independent authors are using on Kindle.

  • So, as one of the voices saying “maybe not”, let me at least expand my position in a forum less constrained than twitter.

    I take it as a given that Chuck has a fantastic product there, a steal at $2.99. I also fully accept that dropping to 99 cents will produce some amount of a bump. And due to the vagaries of amazon, that bump may be more valuable than any lost profits- the higher ranked a book is, the more likely it is to show up in recommendations, which can drastically increase sales. Making a move to bump your ranking is smart.

    So, here’s the downside. The big reason you can get a sales bump by dropping price is that some percentage of your audience has a price threshold which you will cross. At $2.99 they were curious but at $0.99 they’re willing to take a risk. Logical enough. But its impact really depends on how much of your market is in that boat – aware of your product but price-hesitant. My fear (with all acknowledgment that it’s a guess) is that Chuck’s market doesn’t lean that way. I think most people aware of the book have been ok with the price (though they may be deterred by other barriers, like e-books).

    The trick is that real, explosive, needle-moving growth comes from grabbing new eyeballs. Getting new people exposed to your product. When paired with something that also reduces price hesitation, you can get a lot of movement. This is the thinking behind many coupons and introductory offers.

    Now, a 99 cent sale is also a bit of an advertisement in its own right. Sometimes the fact of the sale is enough to draw fresh eyeballs, but that usually depends on the sale being so drastic that it makes people stop and go “whoah”. The $2.99 to $0.99 drop is not that dramatic, so I don’t think it has a lot of potential.

    All of which comes down to the idea that the sale is probably more effective as part of a bigger strategy. That is, try to time it so it coincides with something that might attract new people, such as an advertisement, publication of an interview or something else.

    Now, I’m disagreeing with Chuck, but I’m not busting on him. One very reasonable argument for discount-only is to see its impact in a vacuum. This is good information gathering, and while there’s room for disagreement on how clean the vacuum is, the underlying logic is good. And Chuck is in a good position to proceed cautiously. He has what seems to be a steadily growing channel (via this blog) and his success with the talkies is likely a channel as well. Even if IC sales dwindle, they are unlikely to ever go away completely, especially after he’s got a few more ebooks up in circulation, effectively reinforcing one another.

    -Rob D.

    PS – Hat tip to the very useful blog of Mary Anna Evans ( http://maryannaevans.blogspot.com/ ) which has some very informative and transparent insights on her book pricing and sales.

  • Chuck, send me your paypal and I’ll send you the extra $2. I just happened to make the purchase during the sale. Anyway, then I’ll have no arguments for/against/how’s-the-weather about pricing. A good book is a good book… and this one’s a bargain at triple the price.

  • One: “Contain your mirth; this is a new carpet.” This is my new all-purpose catch-phrase.

    Two: A key thing I want to add to my general argument about sale pricing is that aside from any ill-will it might generate among those who paid full freight (and let me say that I don’t think anybody’s going to hate on you over two bucks—I paid full freight and I’m not hating on you), I think it has an effect on future purchasing from the same venue. Knowing that World of Goo has hit a dollar, I don’t think I’d buy that publisher’s next game the week they release it, and that’s probably bad for them.

  • @Rob:

    I don’t disagree, the only question is how I could’ve made this a part of a larger strategy. Advertising isn’t (in my opinion) meaningful in terms of “pay for ad, hope for sales” — again, just an opinion, not something I’ve seen firsthand. Interviews and reviews have for me offered a very minimal noticeable jump (if any), so it’s hard to lend much weight to them as part of a strategy.

    Really, e-book purchases are about money and value — I lowered it to a buck, but I didn’t do so in a vacuum. It’s a holiday weekend, it’s the one-month “anniversary,” and so on. For now, it was as much of a larger strategy as I could muster, I think.

    I’ll disagree, though, that my market doesn’t lean that way. I think it does in some parts — I am surprised at the number of messages I received from people who I honestly thought would’ve bought the book before now. These are people I communicate with over social media and who, while I wouldn’t call friends, I at least think of as “online acquaintances.” They didn’t buy at $2.99 but felt comfortable with the dollar pricing.

    Does that mean anything? I don’t know. But it was surprising.

    I will say that the sales today are significantly higher (by 4x) than on normal days. Still not sure how valuable that is — I mean, obviously if I sold that number at my normal price I’d be making better money. (Originally mistyped as “monkey.”) Then again, this has a whiff of the piracy argument — the people who bought at $0.99 weren’t, I suspect, going to ever buy it at $2.99.

    Which is, like you said, just a guess. :)

    – c.

  • @Jeff:

    Yeah, I hear you on the “training the audience” problem. Part of me fears you’re right. But I also don’t have any evidence that it’s true, either.

    Wiser minds than have probably done studies, but to me it comes down to the difference between an interested audience and an uncertain audience.

    I was “interested” in terms of World of Goo. I wanted it when I wanted it, so I bought it.

    But I also know that when the price dropped to $0.99, I could advertise that game and get the uncertain audience onboard — converting the uncertain in some cases, upgrading them to “interested.”

    An interested audience will buy what it wants when it wants it. New book, movie, game, tech comes out, the interested audience buys. Even though they know the iPad will come down in price, they buy it because they’re tech-heads, because they’re Apple zealots, because whatever. Some, however, won’t take that plunge immediately.

    I don’t know that the audience gets so easily trained by small sales. Or, if they do, they’re simply falling into the same roles they had before the “training,” and (I wonder if) the training essentially reinforces those roles rather than creates new ones.

    This is all entirely hypothetical. I am quacking into the void.

    — c.

  • I will be totally happy to be wrong, but if so, I’d put money that I’m more likely wrong about how noteworthy the .99 price is than the actual _cost_.

    As I think, it also reveals one other factor I hadn’t accounted for – the .99 pricing _is_ a fantastic impetus for on-the-fence buyers who have been meaning to get around to picking up the book, but have not. It’s a combination of reminder and incentive, and even carries a little moral weight. As in “I know I want to support Chuck’s book – what kind of a person would I be if I did not take this opportunity”. I can totally see that throwing up some numbers.

    The timing is a more interesting point. I agree that doing it on an anniversary feels more substantial than just doing it. In fact, things like that are, to my mind, a big check against the concern of buyer resentment. If a thing gets cheaper just because, that raises eyebrows, but if it’s the three Day Grand Oompa Loompa sale it (perhaps irrationally) _feels_ less arbitrary.

    The big rub, I think, is that IC exists in a vacuum. Will makes a great point about the virtues of having items at various price points, and he’s totally right. The more things you have, the more things you can conceptually tie into. Genre plays into this some (romance novels on valentines, horror on Halloween) but so long as you can create interesting connections (Thomas Edison’s Birthday!) and make them clear to the reader, then they really can work.

    All of which is to say, get cracking on more books! The market demands it!

    -Rob D.

    • @Rob:

      Heh, trust me, I’m working on it.

      Of course, only real issue is: I don’t have time to keep funneling stuff toward self-publishing. Realistically, for that to work, I’d have to be “all in,” and I think it also speaks to maybe one of the flaws with self-publishing: that sense of impatient More More More that pervades DIY authors. But that is a whole other problem, I guess. :)

      — c.

  • I proudly bought it at $2.99 and have been recommending it.

    A sale is also a good excuse for your fans to propagate extra “woo hoo check it out,” I have to say.

  • Oh, Chuck. *shakes head sadly* Have I taught you nothing? Um, wait. That was someone else. Never mind.

    It’s only been one month and already you’re all impatient. I was thinking maybe I’d buy your Irrational Creatures book this weekend, seeing as how I might get a wee break from the day job to focus on other things, but now you’ve lowered the price into the “groveling and unworthy, please flog me bloody” category and thwarted my intentions. I’m sorry, I can’t support the efforts of a fellow writer at that price. Let me know when you raise it back up to $2.99 and I’ll buy it. Maybe I’ll even read it. And perhaps review it over at Amazon. But these things, as do all good things, take time. Like good sex. Or bread dough rising. Or chocolate melting. In your mouth.

    Ahem. I digress.

    One month is not an anniversary. It’s a point on an Excel spreadsheet. Chill the hell out and pace yourself or no one is ever going to share their bread and chocolate with you, ever again.

  • [Okay, fine. Yes, I know they’re IRREGULAR and not IRRATIONAL creatures. Sheesh. Just trying to give the poor dears a leg up in the world so they could maybe ditch the Pepto Bismol and get on the Prozac instead. Personally, I’d rather deal with an irrational creature any day. Far less clean up involved. Promotion is hard enough without . . . well, you know. It’s not like you can take irregular creatures on a book tour.]

  • I bought at 2.99 and don’t feel bad at all. Great reading. I expected super writing after reading your blog, and I wasn’t disappointed. (Don’t have an opinion about the .99 thing that’s going on, but I’ll start working one up.)

  • I also bought it at $2.99. (Aside: If you’re not sure whether to buy the book, trust me: the first story alone is worth the price.)

    As for the sale price, I think it’s a great idea. It’s not the same as games, I don’t think, because games are discounted permanently. Sure, people might wait and buy future books later if you are known to discount after a month. But I don’t think that’s what this is. This is a surprise sale with a temporary duration. What it does encourage me to do is follow your blog and Twitter, so I know when stuff like this happens. If I hadn’t bought your book because of money issues, I would buy it now. It would be the tipping point for me.

    The best marketing techniques I’ve seen are the one’s with a deadline. It creates a sense of urgency in the buyer. It turns “Oh, yeah, Irregular Creatures…I need to check that out sometime” into “Holy crap, I can save $2 if I buy it this weekend. I’ll do it now before I forget.” But that’s how I think. I’ll be curious to read how it works outside my brain :)

  • Happy monthiversary, Chuck. I’d give you credit for coining that word, but surely this past weekend was alight with the passion of lovesick teens ecstatic over the fact that their monthiversaries fell within two weeks of Valentine’s Day. Or their sixmonthiversaries. Or something like that.

    I had to amble over here to see why I was getting traffic to my blog that originated someplace called terribleminds. (Thank you to Rob for posting that link.) There’s lots of interesting stuff here, and it’s entertainingly written, too. Bonus!

    I’m watching your $0.99 experiment. I hear other people saying that lowering the price alone will cause a spike in sales. I can’t say that it worked that way for me. Paying for an ad? Yes. Getting mentioned on a popular blog? Yes. Getting an award from a popular bookblogging reviewer? Oh, heck yes. But lowering the price didn’t do much for my sales, either alone or in conjunction with those other things, not that I could tell. I wish I could say otherwise, because lowering the price is easy, but I can’t.

    If I read this comment of yours correctly, we’re in a similar situation:

    “I don’t have time to keep funneling stuff toward self-publishing. Realistically, for that to work, I’d have to be “all in,” and I think it also speaks to maybe one of the flaws with self-publishing: that sense of impatient More More More that pervades DIY authors. But that is a whole other problem, I guess.”

    I’ve got two paper book contracts to fulfill by summer. I’m excited about those books. I want to write them. History tells me that they will not make me rich. Yet there are people self-publishing ebooks who *are* getting rich. How much of my time should I funnel into being more like them? I have no idea. But I’ll be watching this space to see how *you* juggle your writing life.

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