This post, by Jennifer Becton, originally appeared on the Indie Jane site on 6/15/12.
I’m going to state up front that I haven’t drawn any solid conclusions by the end of this post, but the information contained below about more changes to Amazon’s algorithm is important for indies to know.
One of the advantages indie authors have over our traditionally published counterparts is that we can choose to sell our ebooks very cheaply. Setting a price of $.99 has proven not only a great deal for readers, but writers still earn 35 percent of the list price, which is much more than what authors of traditionally published ebooks receive.
The $.99 price point has also been a wonderful tool for breaking into a large market and competing successfully against established names. In fact, the $.99 price is part of the strategy I used to propel Absolute Liability to the Top 100 last summer. It is less likely to work now though, and this frustrates me a bit because it removes a tool from my toolbox.
Amazon’s algorithm. [Insert scary music]
Heretofore, the list price of a book had no bearing on popularity and rank. Now it does. Some bright authors at Kindle Boards figured it all out. There’s a podcast here, and articles here and here to break it down for you. The gist of it is this: if you price at $.99, you must sell more copies to be ranked comparably to those selling at higher prices. The KBers haven’t figured out how things are weighted exactly, and the whole thing is all still a bit hazy to me.
However, this explains why some Indie Janeites’ sales have not produced the results we expected. For example, I recently lowered the price of both my Southern Fraud Thrillers to $.99 and $1.99 respectively. I sold more books, but my rank did not improve at the rate I expected based on the number of sales; therefore, my visibility did not improve and I did not end up reaching as many readers as I’d hoped, meaning that I got less value out of my sale than anticipated. (Value meaning additional reach, and not necessarily additional dollars.)