Recommendations Matter Most

Posted on 25 July, 2012

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The last couple of weeks have been further experiments in pricing, with enlightening and slightly annoying results. The short version of this is that pricing doesn’t seem to matter; it’s all getting out there and selling it after all and I hate selling things. I do, however, have specific plans for making that a little easier for myself.

Total copies sold: 36 as of 07/25/12.

It’s Not the Price

A couple of weeks ago I experimented with dropping the price via a coupon on Smashwords.com. I’ve seen significantly more sales via Smashwords than I have via the Kindle Store in the month of July (four times as many as of 07/25/12) so I was curious to see whether a promotion via Smashwords would make a significant difference. My gut feeling was that there are so many books for sale in the Kindle Store that it’s easy for a book to get swallowed up in that space but that a quality product might stand out more on Smashwords, in part because it feels like a smaller venue (I have no idea whether this is true) and in part because I was seeing so much more activity there to begin with. I left the price where it was ($2.99) on Kindle and put out a coupon that made it $2 even on Smashwords. I performed no other promotion and waited a few days only to make zero sales at either price.

Zero.

Then I upped the price to $3.99 on Amazon and on Smashwords, left my original coupon in place and chose to enroll Perishables in a site-wide “Christmas in July” type sale at Smashwords that would make it available for $1. I continued doing no other promotion work and waited. I made no sales on Kindle and made one (1) sale on Smashwords.

Interesting.

I will admit to being extremely surprised by this. I thought that promoting a book would be shouting into the void and that the main driver of e-book sales really was people just browsing around and seeing something cheap and saying the heck with it. I didn’t think authors actions’ did much to move a product; I figured it was more a case of getting lucky and setting prices that targeted specific audience preconceptions regarding the relationship between a book’s price and its quality. I was wrong.

It’s Where You See It

I was further proven wrong when Perishables was picked as an entry on the opensource.com 2012 Summer Reading List. That generated a few sample downloads from Smashwords and a solid handful of sales. It didn’t move many books but it was the first thing that has moved any at all in a couple of weeks and again, price did not matter. Two sales were at the full $3.99 rate on Amazon and two were at the $1 summer promotional price on Smashwords (one was on Smashwords but at full price). I find this unbelievably fascinating. We don’t care about price and we aren’t all just browsing around in our Kindle apps buying twenty 99c books for the heck of it. We readers really do hear about things from our friends and other trusted sources – such as opensource.com – and buy based on that. I don’t know why this surprised me, as friends have been how I found out about almost every book I’ve ever loved, but I really thought that e-books are an inherently isolated experience that didn’t lend itself to the “here, read this” experience most of us have had of a friend shoving a book into our hands on the way out the door.

Plans Going Forward

Here’s my problem, then: I should be promoting this but mama raised me for modesty. I am terrible at modesty a great deal of the time – I am often quick to trumpet myself in purely professional settings – but I find it tremendously difficult to exhort someone else to read Perishables. I think it’s a combination of shyness, the desire not to hear that they hated it and a general timidity about salesmanship in general. So, for right now I’m letting other people promote it for me and finding ways to promote it in contexts that allow me to express myself without feeling like I’m making a sales pitch.

First, I’ve purchased a month-long banner ad on yog-sothoth.com (starting 07/26) and am sponsoring at least one episode of their podcasts: News from Pnakotus and The Silver Lodge. They focus on Lovecraftian gaming and fiction and I feel like their witty, tongue-in-cheek approach mixed with an appreciation for genuine horror makes their listeners and users a great potential audience for Perishables. It’s an expensive endeavor compared to any other promotion I’ve done but it has the feeling of being an investment and I am just dying to see if it does me any good. They are also just fantastic people and I am happy to be able to support them.

Second, I’ve been asked to write a guest column for www.opensource.com on the whole open-source self-publication process, so that will be happening sometime in the next few weeks.

Third, I’m going to go to a print shop and have some business cards or postcards made that have a short blurb, the doodle illustration I did of Withrow and a zombie for the title page of Part I: The Vampire, the URL and a QR code to point to the “About Perishables” page on this site. I’ve gotten permission to leave some at a couple of local businesses where I’m a regular.

Fourth, I’m contemplating taking some to Dragon*Con and leaving them in public spaces. I would need to check whether they have rules about that sort of thing, though, as I have no desire to mess with that very fun annual pilgrimage.

Fifth, I’m going to keep an eye on the fan tracks to see if there is a way to submit myself as a panelist for next year; if, for instance, there are panels on self-publishing.

Of late I’ve seen a lot of conversations in which $2.99 was assumed to be the “this book is serious but they want to sell it” price point. This is in direct opposition to what I was seeing and posting about just a few weeks ago. I don’t think this means anything other than that preconceptions regarding price are tremendously localized phenomena. One group of people believes 99c is the most anything should be; others, $2.99; and others still think anything under $4.99 is asking to be disregarded as a waste of time. I still think that for most people price is a mix of preconceived notions and unadulterated self-interest. I’m not going to make those people budge on either, so I’m probably going to drop the price back to $2.99 across the board as that still is, for me, the price that feels most correct.