Is #99c the new #free for Kindle books? Reposted from @AstronomiconSF

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When I first entered into the world of indie publishing, there were many fewer independent authors publishing books each year. Standing out from the crowd was much easier and there were many ways to get your books onto potential readers e-readers. Assuming your writing was good enough, that would lead to decent sales.

Things have changed. There seems to be little consensus on the numbers apart from there are many times as many authors self-publishing and marketing their works everywhere they can find. This obviously means that there is a lot more competition. Now I have never really been afraid of competition, but now there are SO many authors that it has tipped the market into a problem I would not have predicted a couple of years ago.

Just being a good writer is simply not enough any more. The days when you could just launch your book for free are going fast. I did some research on this but no-one seems to know how many free books are currently available for download. It is certainly measured in tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands. More and more readers are downloading more free books than they can sensibly read. This causes two problems. Firstly they might download your free book and never get around to reading it. But also, even if they read one of your books and like it, with a huge number of other free books out there they are going to have to REALLY like your book to spend money on the sequel.

How do you get around this problem? It seems the best solution is simply to stop giving books away for free. Persuading everyone else to do the same, although a nice idea, is never going to happen. But I have found that by pricing an e-book at 99c instead of giving it away free you get several beneficial effects:

  1. You are not undervaluing your work. If you give it away for free, it makes it seem valueless.
  2. If a reader pays even a token amount to download your book they are a LOT more likely to read it as they have already made an investment in it.
  3. Sales at 99c count more towards your sales ranking (on Amazon) than give-aways.
  4. You get a (very) small amount of extra money towards your monthly Amazon payout.
Astronomicon: Icarus
Find all the Astronomicon
 books on Amazon
As always I continue to experiment with different price points and a range of other ways to promote my books. I've tried a variety of time-limited 99c offers on several of my books with a variety of results, but now I have an ongoing 99c price on Astronomicon: Icarus on Amazon. Obviously the numbers sold do not compare to the numbers given away on a freebie offer, but it is leading to almost double the sales of the other books in the Astronomicon series.

If you have different experiences with pricing, please let me know in the comments below. The market is constantly changing and different genres seem to hit different classes of reader, so what works for science fiction may not work for horror or romance.