Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Know Circuit is Released!

It took what felt like forever, but Amazon has finally listed The Know Circuit in both paperback and eBook! With that final piece, the sequel to my cyberpunk debut is officially released. Go there today and order 100 copies for you and your friends.

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Friday, May 7, 2010

A Facelift, A New Cyberpunk Novel, And A Handy Guide to Buying My Books

The Know Circuit is slowly creeping towards full release status. I hope to have it listed on Amazon by Monday, May 10th. It is currently available at CreateSpace, the Kindle Store and Smashwords. I've put together a quick and easy guide to all the places my books are available online, which I will update as it changes. In honor of the release of the new novel, I've given the site a minor facelift to reflect the new book cover. Thank you for all your support.

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Thorny Discussion of Pricing

As I begin the final proofing stages for the eminent release of my second cyberpunk novel, The Know Circuit in paperback and eBook, I feel it's time to have that discussion I've been meaning to have about book prices. Specifically, I want to go through the numbers of my book prices and the thought process behind each price. For those who are still not aware, my debut novel in the Bridge Chronicles Series, Under the Amoral Bridge is available in paperback and eBook formats - see that linked page for details on where to purchase the various editions including a coupon for the paperback.

When I first published Under the Amoral Bridge, I was unsure about pricing. I based my initial pricing ($12) off of the per book royalty I wanted to target. Using CreateSpace (a Print-on-Demand house owned by Amazon - they only print a copy when an order has been placed), I was able to sell a very nicely printed 6"x9" trade paperback on the CreateSpace store and on Amazon.com. Looking at the normal pricing for trade paperbacks, most publishers seem to set their price point at around $15. In comparison to that, $12 seems like a bargain? In addition, my per-book royalties would be high - $6.71 for all sales from the CreateSpace store and $4.31 from each Amazon sale. Those numbers look great if you start adding up sales - 100 sales on Amazon would net me $400, more than making up the cost of publishing the book through CreateSpace. Incidentally, to get those royalty rates required that I upgrade the publishing package to the Pro level, a cost of $39. I would also need to order proofing copies at $2.89 each plus shipping (the shipping has actually been fairly expensive). 

The problem I ran into, however, was that the $12 price point seems to be a bit high for an independent author no one has ever heard of selling a debut novel. I have not sold one copy from the CreateSpace store at full price - every sale there has been at a discount (CreateSpace allows me to create coupons at will). Amazon sales have been better, though they have slowed down to nothing in the last month. Last fall, CreateSpace worked out a significant deal, giving Pro level members the option to sell their books in Expanded Distribution channels. This means that the book can now be ordered through major distributors like Ingram, making the book available to almost any U.S. brick and mortar bookstore. This comes at a cost though - the royalty per book sold drops to $1.91. That's right, for every book purchased at the retail level for $12, I get a whopping $1.91. If you ever wonder why the books you buy are so expensive and authors are so bitchy, think about the disparity of those numbers for a minute. The cost of moving dead trees around for all but the best-selling authors has become insane. Therein lies the death of the mid-list author, and oblivion for the rest of us. Sales of the paperback have been slow, trickling to a dead stop in April. Since September, I have sold a total of 32 paperbacks through all the various avenues, most through Amazon. I can only assume that the paperback is a bit expensive, and so from this moment forward, anyone wishing to buy the paperback can go to the CreateSpace store and use the coupon code S3M97LBV to get it for the price of $8.

For the upcoming release of The Know Circuit, I've used the knowledge I gained about pricing and layout to full effect. Though it has about 10,000 more words than Under, the paperback will actually come in about 10 pages lighter, allowing me a bit more pricing flexibility. I've priced the paperback under the magic $10 price point, at $9.99. At that level, my royalties look like this: $5.22 (CreateSpace), $3.22 (Amazon.com) and $1.22 (Expanded Distribution). I can offer coupons on CreateSpace and still keep a decent royalty rate, but knowing that the majority of my sales come through Amazon, my average royalty will end up being around $3. Hopefully the lower price point, as well as it being a second novel, will spur greater paperback sales this time around.

The eBook market has been much more promising, thankfully. At first, I priced the eBook version to achieve roughly the same royalty rate per sale as a CreateSpace sale. While it was still cheaper than the paperback (as it should be, in my opinion), that $8 price point wasn't moving copies on Smashwords.com (total of 2 sales). Smashwords gives the author 65% after a small transaction fee, and allows me to set coupons as well. When I published to the Amazon Kindle store, the royalties went to crap - 35% of the list price. As a result, my first price on Amazon was $10 (2 sales). Eventually, I came around and started offering the book at a lower price: first at $4 (6 sales), then finally at $.99 cents. I had thought the $.99 cent price would be a short-term promo price, but it finally hit me. This is the first book in a series. I need to think of its sales in terms of a process, a brand-building exercise to build readers for my entire body of work, not just a one-off novel. If I continued to offer the eBook at the impulse price of $.99 cents indefinitely, those who enjoyed it would be more likely to spend a little extra on my later books. Yes, that means I make a total of $.35 cents per book for the majority of the sales through the Kindle store, but it also means I expand the potential reader base of The Know Circuit greatly.

Recently, Amazon has announced an upcoming change in eBook royalty rates for Kindle authors. Provided the book is priced at $2.99 or greater, instead of 35%, the author will get 70%. With that in mind, I plan to release The Know Circuit for $2.99 while keeping Under the Amoral Bridge at $.99 cents. Two novels in the series for $4 is not a bad deal. Hopefully, that will grow my eBook sales exponentially. As it stands, I've sold a total of 97 eBook copies, though that does include the 14 free copies donated to the Operation eBook Drop program.

Finally, there remains the thorny problem of the free novels. Yes, Under the Amoral Bridge and The Know Circuit are both available for free in their entirety on this ad-supported web site. They will remain here indefinitely. You may ask why you should pay good money for something you can get for free in another format? I don't have a good answer for you. I'm not sure why you would, other than to support an independent author you enjoy. I look at the prices I've set as the cost of convenience - it is easier to read novels of this size in a paperback or eBook format, but if you choose not to, I won't stop you. Think of it as my gift to the readers. But with that in mind, I've struggled in my own mind with the future home of Bridge novels. I am over halfway through the sequel to The Know Circuit, with a fourth novel planned. Originally, it was my intention to publish Book 3 on this site in the same fashion as the first two books, but that no longer makes sense to me. I want to be a writer who gets paid for his work. While a writer of renown like Cory Doctorw may be able to publish novels for free on the web while asking for donations, a relative unknown like myself will be left fending for scraps. I've always felt rather squidgy about taking (or paying) donations on web sites, so I feel that option really isn't open to me. As a result, I will not be publishing the entirety of the remaining books in the series on this site. I will be publishing samples, likely the first four or five chapters, when it is ready for publication. I hope this won't turn off too many fans, but it is what it needs to be.

What does that mean for this web site? Good things, actually. I have a plan, though it isn't quite ready for public revelation yet. Check back in the next few weeks, after the release of The Know Circuit. I will be outlining the plan in full as I get farther along in the sequel. It's been a crazy two years with Artemis Bridge, and I thank everyone who has read the novel here, on paper or on their eReader of choice. Stick around and let me entertain you.

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