Friday, October 14, 2016

Lessons Learned from My Indie Publishing Journey Part 3: 5 Tips for Pricing and Distribution

The final part of this Amazon indie publishing series is upon us! I talked about how to get started in part 1 and included how to format books and ebooks in part 2. All without giving myself flashbacks or having a mental breakdown. Hurrah!

Now we come to the easiest, but still very important, part of indie publishing: Pricing and distribution methods. The rules are simple: Price your story high enough to make some profit, but low enough to still make sales. Make your story available for as many distributors as possible without over stretching yourself, losing money, or selling your soul to the industry.
Lessons Learned from My Indie Publishing Journey Part 3: 5 Tips for Pricing and Distribution
Now, before we get started. Calm down. Deep breaths. DON'T PANIC. Got it? Okay, let us begin:

Tip 1: Don't Expect to Make a Ton of Money At First
We've all heard the stories. Indie authors who are making a decent living off of their books. Indie authors who slap their books on Amazon, then somehow end up with a movie deal. This does not happen overnight...or even to most people who aren't named Andy Weir. Keep in mind that to make a decent amount of money indie publishing, you have to: 

  1. Have a darn good story...which takes a lot of time.
  2. Have a well edited story...which can take money and a lot of time. 
  3. A good marketing game...which takes a lot of time.
  4. Amazing fans...this takes a lot of time to develop, too. 
  5. More than one book out on the web...also a lot of time. 
Notice the theme? Making money indie publishing takes a lot of time. Maybe you, unlike Han Solo, are not in this for the money. Awesome. But, if you are, be patient and willing to work long and hard.

Tip 2: Find the pricing sweet spot
Both kindle and physical books have something of a pricing sweet spot. What are these? Let me tell you: 

Kindle short story pricing: 99 cents. Sweet and simple. This is the minimum price you can sell a kindle story for. If you are selling a story for 99 cents, you are only allowed a 35% royalty, which means you'll be making about 35 cents per sale. Not power money, but it's a short story, so what do you expect? Besides, having a low price will attract a lot of readers and reviewers, which strengthens your platform. It's worked well for Skies of Dripping Gold and many other short stories.

Kindle ebook pricing: $2.99 is about standard. You can try and sell for more, but if there are tons of other ebooks out there selling for less, then people are going to feel like they're being ripped off by paying more than that for yours. Which sucks, because that means you're expected to sell years of your hard work for about 3 bucks. The upside? If you sell your ebook for $2.99, you are allowed a 70% royalty (which is not a royalty amount you will ever be able to negotiate if you traditionally publish), which means you'll make about $2.00 per sale. Pretty good.

Physical book pricing: This is a harder one. Amazon uses a print-on-demand system, which means that the price for production is actually a bit more expensive. A standard 300-page novel costs about $9.00 to print. So then you have to decide: How much money do I want to make off of this deal? You obviously need to sell it for more than $9.00, otherwise you'll be losing money. But you can't sell it for too much, because then nobody will buy it. So pop onto Amazon's calculator to take a look at how much you'll be making. Then decide on pricing. $12 to $13 is awesome. $15 is reasonable and has been known to work. $18 is generally a bad idea, but may work if this is part of a series much beloved by your insanely loyal fans. $25 and you'll be put in a mental institution for believing you're J.K. Rowling. 

Tip 3: If you're good at something, never do it for free
Translation: Do NOT give your ebook away for free. You are better than that. You worked hard on that story. Respect yourself and your book. Giving away your sweat and blood for free sets a terrible precedent. You go grocery shopping and have to pay for a bag to carry it out to your car, but books should be free? No. Just no. If you are doing it for marketing reasons, try this:

Original price is above 99 cents? Lower it to 99 cents for a few days. Get some new readers, but without devaluing your work.
Original price is 99 cents? That's a great deal. If somebody isn't willing to shell out less than a dollar for your story, then that's their problem.  

Tip 4: Understand the CreateSpace distribution channels
CreateSpace will give you different distribution options called "Channels." Both standard distribution and expanded distribution are free. 

Standard distribution: You will want to select all three options for Standard Distribution (Amazon.com, Amazon Europe, and the CreateSpace store). Hands down. There's no reason not to. 

Expanded distribution: Because of pricing, I can't give you a black and white answer on this one. There are three options for expanded distribution: Libraries and Academic Institutions (which makes your work available to these institutions), CreateSpace Direct (which makes your work available to certified resellers), and Bookstores and Online Retailers (which makes your work available to online and offline retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Ingram, etc). These are all great opportunities. The downside? It will increase the sales price of your book. So if you can take advantage of these channels without making your book absurdly expensive, then go for it. If not? Stay away. Those channels won't help you if nobody is buying and reviewing your stories.

Tip 5: Decide on KDP Select
Enrolling your ebook in KDP select means several things: It means that you have agreed to sell your ebook exclusively on Amazon for at least 90 days (at the end of these 90 days you can decide to drop out or renew). It also means that your book will be available for free to members of Kindle Unlimited. Amazon will pay you for each sale, though the amount will vary each month, since it's taken out of a pool. You will be increasing your readership and audience quite a bit while still getting paid. The downside? Because your book is free, people may download it without thinking. They may never read it or review it. Worse, they may read it only to realize it's not their genre, then leave you a bad review. It's honestly up to you. I have not enrolled Skies of Dripping Gold in KDP for various reasons specific to me and my story, so I can't personally give you my thoughts on the matter. I'm sure there are many other authors out there who can, so just hop on Google or tweet your favorite indie author. 

I hope this indie publishing series has been helpful for you. I know that jumping into self-publishing can be hard and more than a little bit scary, but it doesn't have to be. Always feel free to reach out to other indie authors and ask for advice. You can even contact me if you want to. I don't bite, I just spew nerd quotes and sarcasm (which I promise to keep to a minimum if you need my help).

At the risk of sounding cliche, all of the difficulties of publishing will mean nothing once you actually have your book sitting on your bookshelf. Other people will see it and and think it looks awesome. But you? When you see it, it will be bathed in glory because you know you worked hard to get it on that shelf.
So keep going. Your story is amazing. You are amazing. You can do this.

Have questions or tips of your own? Please leave them in the comment section!

Related articles:
Lessons Learned from My Indie Publishing Journey Part 1: 7 Tips for Getting Started 
Lessons Learned from My Indie Publishing Journey Part 2: 6 Tips for Novel and eBook Formatting
12 Ridiculous Questions Non-Writers Ask Writers (And 12 Ways To Respond to Them)

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