Two Questions Every New Author Asks

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Two Questions Every New Author Asks

Every author I’ve met has asked me the same set of questions:

  1. How did you know how to price your book?
  2. What do I need to do to encourage/boost sales?

Do they sound familiar? We’ve all asked these questions – I know I did – when approaching publishing for the first time. So let’s address them one-by-one.

How to Price Your eBook

Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, has probably conducted the most exhaustive studies on how to price eBooks. He discovered that the price that sells the most books is $0. Free is hot when it comes to  generating eBook sales and building your platform.

When I published my first book, I listed the  eBook version for free for a day and generated 800 downloads. That was a pretty good result considering I only used social media to advertise its availability. (There are a variety of websites, paid and unpaid, where you can also note your book is free for a day or longer, but I was new to publishing and wasn’t aware of them at the time.)

Eight hundred downloads may sound great to some but do you want to give your intellectual property away for free? There are several arguments for and against this price point.

I’ve heard Joel Friedlander say that an independently-published author’s biggest hurdle isn’t plagiarism, it’s obscurity. Giving your book away for free periodically – or even just once – can help you gain instant exposure and push your book up the bestseller chart in your category.

At writing conferences, I’ve also heard experts encourage writers to give their eBooks away for free at least once. They say that this tactic will skyrocket your book sales the day you return the book to its regular price.

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 7.55.14 PMNot always.

My book sales didn’t soar after the 800 free downloads. The day after I had listed my book for free, book sales dropped to their original level. I’m certain it works for some authors, but it’s not a guarantee.

There’s another issue to consider when you are deciding whether to list your eBook for free temporarily. Books are expensive to produce. You spend hours researching writing, editing and revising your book. Then you pay for editing and a cover. Finally, you must pay to convert your PDF into an eBook format, unless you used Smashwords.

The process becomes expensive.

What I’ve begun doing is offering giveaways on Goodreads. I’ll list my giveaway for one month and send four free copies to the winners. This practice always increases sales at least temporarily simply because more people have become aware of my book.

If you don’t want to list your book for free, you might want to read this interview of Mark Coker in Forbes. Coker discovered that the higher you price a book, the less frequently it sells. This may not be true for Stephen King or Amy Tan, but it is true for self-published authors.

Coker also discovered that the $2.99 to $5.99 price range is the sweet spot for eBook sales, so consider pricing your book within this range.

But that’s not all.

According to Coker, an author will earn as much from a $2.99 price point as $9.99. He insists that you’ll reach more readers at the $2.99 price, and if you’re trying to expand your audience, it’s better to select the lower price.

The price range you want to avoid is the $.99 to $1.99, unless you write Romance or are  conducting a promotion to encourage sales. This price range won’t improve sales.

In addition, Coker believes that this price point is a disservice to writers, and I tend to agree. Why underprice yourself when readers will be just as likely to read your eBook if you price it at $5.99?

For a thorough analysis of eBook pricing, check out this article: New Smashwords Survey Helps Authors Sell More eBooks.

How to Sell Your eBook

You wrote your book and it’s available for sale on Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, iTunes and your local bookstore. How do you get it move off the shelf? Here are some suggestions:

  • Purchase a domain for your name and hire a webmaster to create your website. You will want it to include a blog, an about page, a page about your book, and a contact form.
  • Start blogging once a week – even more often if you can. If you never update your website, it will be considered dormant and even worse, it will become undiscoverable.
  • The book Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman is an excellent resource on  blogging and the delivery of content in other formats.
  • Sign up for social media networks where your target audience is represented. If you’re  writing for the 15-to-29-year-old age group, you’ll want to be active on Tumblr and Twitter. If you are trying to reach women, sign up for Facebook and Pinterest.
  • If you  wrote a niche book for accountants, lawyers or editors, make sure you’re on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter. Purchase The Science of Marketing by Dan Zarrella to learn as  much as you can about SEO, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.
  • Explore other books  to learn as much as you can about LinkedIn and Google+ as well. Guy Kawasaki is the  author of What the Plus! Google+ For the Rest of Us and it’s a wonderful resource.
  • Always endeavor to deliver the best content possible. You will nurture trust online by steadily providing information that your followers and contacts need.
  • Follow the 80/20 rule on social media. In other words, 80 percent of the time you will share information and links to blog posts that experts in your field wrote. Twenty percent of the time you can write messages about your books, blog posts and website.
  • Too many new authors resort to promoting their books 80 to 100 percent of the time. It’s an easy trap to fall into but avoid it. Remember that you are trying to build and expand your platform, and you can’t do that by turning social media into broadcast media.
  • Don’t forget to be social. Allocate time in the day to check back with your contacts to like and share their content and to leave comments. The more people grow to trust you as a valuable expert in the field, the more likely they will be to purchase your books and attend your webinars.

What are you doing to increase your book sales?

Frances Caballo

Frances Caballo

Social Media Strategist and Manager at Social Media Just For Writers
Find Frances Caballo on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+. She is the author of Social Media Just for Writers and Twitter Just for Writers, which is available for free on her website.
Frances Caballo
Frances Caballo
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  1. I enjoyed the article by Frances Caballo. I feel it was very informative and honest. I have been through the ringer as well with the same questions and have learned the hardway to really do your research before forking out the money. Make sure you receive what you are promised and make sure you follow up once the book is published. I love the idea of marking the book from $ 2.99 – $ 5.99. I have never looked at selling like that but I love the strategy behind it.