Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Pricing Experiment

As of today I have four books in the Amazon UK Top 20 Kindle bestseller list. My science fiction murder mystery Dreamer’s Cat has just squeezed in at Number 20.

My New York serial killer story The Basement has had the Number 1 slot since after Christmas and my LA vampire story is at Number 4. Hard Landing, the first of my Spider Shepherd thrillers, is at Number 8.

I’m the only writer to have four titles in the Kindle Top 50, never mind the Top 20. And how has that happened? It is, I think, mainly down to price.

I ran an experiment with Dreamer’s Cat over the past three weeks which has demonstrated to me that in the UK Kindle store, it’s price that’s the main selling point for Indie books.

I already had a pretty good idea that was the case after studying the Kindle Top 100 list. There are plenty of established authors with regular publishers to be found in the Top 100 – including John Grisham (£6.78), Lee Child (£4.10), James Patterson (£7.68) and Stephenie Meyer (£4.49). But all the Indie writers are priced at below £1. The majority are the sterling equivalent of 99 cents which works out at about 72p.

Any Indie writer who prices their work at more than £1 is lucky to sell more than a few copies a day and the vast majority don’t even get into the Top 1000.

At the start of the New Year, Dreamer’s Cat was priced at 72p and was hovering at between Number 12 and Number 15 in the top 100. As an experiment I raised the price to £1.99. Within three days it had fallen to the bottom of the Top 100 and a week after I had raised the price it had fallen to Number 180 and was still heading down. At that point I chickened out and cut the price to 86p. Actually I set the price at 75p but Amazon increases the price to 86p. Maybe the difference is VAT. The 75p price is the minimum that Amazon will allow you to set if you price the book differently in the US and the UK. If you allow the Amazon computer to link the UK price to the US price then you can set it at 99 cents which translates to 71p or 72p in the UK depending on the exchange rate.

Anyway, I went for 75p so that I could charge a higher price in the US. Almost immediately Dreamer’s Cat started to move back up the bestseller chart. It got to about Number 30 but then started to go back down and settled at Number 36.
Last week I cut the price again, to 71p, and it slowly moved up. Today it nudged into the Number 20 slot.

I didn’t do any marketing or promotion, and I didn’t mention it on any blogs or forums. The only thing I changed was the price. And price alone moved the book through the rankings.

And if you want proof that price is the key factor, keep an eye on Amanda Hocking’s paranormal novel Switched which is now at Number 42 in the UK Kindle bestseller list. It’s only been in the UK Top 100 for five days and is roaring up the rankings. And the price? 86p. I predict that it won’t be long before Switched is in the Top 10. The book has only two reviews at the moment but that’s going to change. It’ll be interesting to see if the rest of Amanda’s regular-priced novels will follow Switched up the chart. I actually think they won’t, unless she drops the price. But I’d love to be proved wrong.


  1. Tip-toing warily into the realm of such an established and successful writer as yourself, I'm delighted to make the observation that great minds really do think alike.
    As an Indie writer whose first book, Burn, Baby, Burn, has been in the top 100 for 16 days now I'm very happy with my decision to go for the lowest price point, 99c/71p for my book.
    How reassuring to find you agree with me.

  2. It's great to see your book doing so well, Jake! Well done!

  3. I published my novel with Amazon USA (.com); is your argument also valid for the US market, or mostly for the UK? Or are they one and the same (excuse the ignorance)?

  4. Hi Stephen - I'm going to be chasing you and Jake. You can blame Jake for giving me the confidence to go for it. I was going to go for 99p when I launch my masterpiece on an unsuspecting world in a few days (waiting on a jacket design). But maybe 99c is better. Have to think on that one.

  5. Hi, many congrats on the success. I'm one of those who fell for the cheap offer - like so many I got my Kindle for Christmas and was prowling around Amazon for hours up and down clicking like a crazed thing. I curbed my habit (oh so easy to let the whole thing get out of hand) by clicking on samples but for the uber cheap - you, my FB mate Jake, I splashed the cash on the whole 71p. Not much, but I guess you get to keep most of it?? Could you be said to be making a living out of it? I don't know what the chart positions mean in terms of numbers sold.
    Being nosy really. Intended just to say Well Done, and got carried away.