The $0.99 Sale: Results Are In

Cat-Bird Banner: Irregular Creatures

So, as you may know, over the Valentine’s Day weekend I went ahead and slapped IRREGULAR CREATURES up on Amazon for a wee widdle dollar (or, rather, a penny shy).

How’d it do? Was it worth it?

Numbers-wise, here’s the poop:

Between Friday and Monday, I sold 124 copies. Numerically, not bad. I mean, considering that after the first explosive week of sales I’ve been doing 40 sales a week, seeing a four-day jump that equals thrice that number is pretty good. Of course, that’s just in copies sold.

Money made is fine enough, but nowhere near what I would’ve earned had the price been $2.99 — earning thirty cents per sale as opposed to two bucks per sale is a significant drop. Then again, would I have sold 124 copies at $2.99? No. No way.

Ranking-wise, looks like the book got into the top 2000 at Amazon Kindle store. It did better on its first day of sales, when it made it up to #824. It was a good leap, but I was hoping for better.

Here are some larger conclusions — do with them as you will:

Ninety-Nine Cent E-Books Are The Same Kind Of “Problem” As Pirated Books

Piracy is viewed as a problem because it represents lost revenue, except the problem with that, erm, problem is that it avoids the reality: those pirates were probably never going to be real customers. The $0.99 book issue has a similar throughline: those who bought at $0.99 but not at $2.99 could be viewed as lost revenue. Except, smart money says most of them were never going to buy at the higher price. In this way, they represent exactly the revenue they should represent, and further, ideally represent “new readers.” And that leads to this next point right here…

Low Cost Is About New Readers

I just want to sequester that thought away from the others — stick it in a cage, zap it with cattle-prods, and make it dance.You put something out there at that $$, it’s about gaining eyes and, ideally, fans.

In a perfect world, you’re then training those fans that your work has value, regardless of what that value is. A buck is a dirt-floor price for fiction, but free is a lot worse. This isn’t scientific thinking, but my feeling is this: you give something away for free, readers understand its value, which is essentially nothing. You sell something for any price, even a low price, they at least understand that the value of the work is in cash and coin. It isn’t garbage. It isn’t floor-sweepings. I think any money given is meaningful in this regard.

Whatever the case, new readers — if your work engages and connects — are likely to stick around for future releases. I don’t say this having any evidence beyond my own known patterns, but I suspect it’s true.

I also suspect that ghosts are real, and that UFOs sometimes steal our Bigfeet.

So, I might not be the guy you want to listen to.

Always Let People Give You More

A few people bought the book at the Amazon price, and then wanted to ensure I got more $$ out of the deal. Further, some eschewed the Kindle purchase and just went to buy the (full-price) PDF. Feels like you should always leave room for fans to support you in ways beyond funneling money through a distributor.

Self-Promotion Is Still Hard

It’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s irritating (to myself and surely to others) becoming my own mouthpiece again and again. It’s bad enough I’m trying to generate energy for this blog and for Flickr photos and whatever else — suddenly I’m like, “Now you buy my shit!” And, for better or for worse it feels all the more salacious because I’m asking for your filthy wonderful lucre. On the other hand, shit doggity-damn, it works. Whenever I tweeted (which usually resulted in a number of retweets from followers, which was awesome and deserves a bucket of thanks), I got a spike in sales. I mean, a visible, sudden spike. So, it sucks being a whore, but being a whore also works.

The Amazon Sales Ranking Is Still Determined By A Crazy Robot

I’m sure there’s some kind of logic or sanity in there somewhere, in much the same way SkyNet had a “plan” when it nuked all of mankind and invented Terminators. But my mushy human brain just doesn’t understand it. Sometimes a leap in sales would register — other times a leap in sales would hamper the ranking. Beware Amazon’s crazy ranking robot. Best to ignore it because, uhhh, it’s gone insane.

What If You Stop Looking At E-Books As Individual Items?

If I have seven I Dream Of Jeannie-themed buttplugs, and they cost me $10 a pop and I sell ’em at $20, then I make $10 a pop. If I reduce my costs, I may sell more, but once they’re gone, they’re gone — I cannot sell anymore, and my sales potential is squandered. (Or something — let me remind you that I am a writer with middling math and/or business skills.)

The same cannot be said of e-books. My audience is theoretically limitless. Each e-book sold does not represent an e-book lost out of my inventory. I’m selling the equivalent of an imaginary friend.

Let’s look at my overall sales in the past month, right? I made around $5 – $15 a day in sales every day, earning $2 or so on each sale. Fine. Easy enough.

When I started the V-Day sale, on the first day I earned almost $30, and on subsequent days went back to the $5-15 range. I sold a lot more “copies,” but (for the most part) made the same amount of money.

If you stop looking at each sale as a lost e-book and instead look at the collective sales, the $0.99 is easier to swallow. I’m increasing my readership and, frankly, still making the same money. Now, again, in what I will crassly refer to as Normal Business Practices, that ain’t great — “increased consumer base” should translate to “bigger money.” Here, it doesn’t, but I’m also not losing anything, really. I don’t have overhead costs, I don’t have inventory, I don’t have a dwindling supply.

Forgive me if this makes no sense — I’m merely saying that if you look at e-book sales as a collective process with rewards that go beyond the individual sale, then a reduced price feels more valuable.

On The Other Hand

A buck is still too damn cheap for the book. For any book, really.

It’s why I don’t know if I’d recommend that price consistently. Feels like a good sale price. Besides, you start at ninety-nine cents, you can never incentivize by reducing the price temporarily or permanently.

Then again, what the fuck do I know?

The Apple Eats Amazon Kerfuffle

I don’t have much to say right now about the “Apple Shanks The Kindle App In The Prison Shower” situation, because Tobias Buckell says them for me. Go there and read his wisdom.

Only thing I will say: if you’re planning on self-publishing, may be either a good time to hurry up and do it or sit back and wait for the two giant Godzilla monsters to fight it the fuck out.