3 S.R. Johannes: ebook format and pricing (nooks and kindle and itunes - oh my)

Friday, September 30, 2011

ebook format and pricing (nooks and kindle and itunes - oh my)

First, a heartfelt thanks to everyone who signed up for the tour! I really appreciate all the support. I still have a few slots so you can still sign up to read an ebook for the tour and the book is up on Goodreads :)

Now, back to the ebook eXperiment!
Before I talk about formats and pricing, I thought I would share some 411 about where I am in the process - because I promised to be totally frank and honest:

What I have spent so far: My budget is about $1,000
As a financial disclaimer - I have no money to do this. I am actually taking on a job that is crap pay and hard work but will get me what I need to put this book out right. So don't think I'm rich and throwing a bunch of cash in. 

$9 for stock photo
$400 for editing with professional editor
170$ for an 3 day ad (I will talk about this next week)
Time - priceless (someone asked me to log how many hrs Im spending - right now about 5 hours a day to get everything set up. I don't expect to spend as much time once the book is out.)

Here are some of the things I've done so far:
  • Added my book to Goodreads
  • Added my book to my web site
  • Updating my website
  • Answered every email and comment of support I've gotten (I out this just so I would think I've accomplished something b/c it takes time!)
  • Created widget (okay my hubby helped me :)
  • Started gathering names and scheduling blog tour for Dec
  • Teenbookreads scheduling blog tour for Jan :)
  • Researched ebooking online (it's hard to find it all in one spot!)
  • Reached out to ebooker friends for advice
  • Wrote acknowledgement/dedication pages
  • Finished professional edits
  • Discussed secret cover project with secret person (you will find out next week)
  • Tested formats online to see how they would look (okay hubby helped me)
  • Researched and contacted bloggers in teen world (love them!)
  • Learn about ISBN
Left to do
  • Come up with marketing slogan
  • Find copyeditor for copyedits. (This is my biggest concern right now. And, yes I'm going to pay for this. If I do this ebook, I'm going to do it right. You get out what you put in.)
  • Get free copies to bloggers for review
  • Create online media kit
  • Set up online launch party
  • Look into CA, AU, and UK ebooking markets?
  • Brainstorm creative contests
  • Read blogs on ebooking
  • Look into creative giveaways
  • Research charitable organization(maybe in nature or animals) that I can give some of my earnings to. 
I'm sure there is much much more but I just don't know yet.

Which eBooking format is best?

First, I decided I wanted my books to be available to every single person who has any kind of ereader. I assume this is common but from my research - I don't think the majority of ebookers think about many formats outside of Nook and Kindle. But there are so many I couldn't possible figure out how or where to go.

There are TONS of different format of ereaders: Kindle, Nook, iTunes, Sony Reader, Kobo reader and I'm sure there are more I don't know about.

Well I am certainly not equipped (nor do I have the time) to create every format or sell any myself.

So I heard about Smashwords - you can utilize them to create all the formats for your ebooks for a minimal fee. They also have an upgraded program that includes an ISBN process.

However, their royalty on iTunes, Kindle and Nook are not as good as the direct places themselves. I believe Smashwords is 60 or 65%. I can get 70% on Amazon which is where I foresee most of my sales.

Smashwords will let you opt out of certain ereader formats. So I'm going to do Amazon and B&N myself (opt out of Smashwords) and then let Smashwords handle distributing all the other formats. That way I get the higher royalty on kindle and B&N, which I expect will be most of my sales, and the other ereaders will be taken care of by Smashworks. Downside, I have to fiddle with more than one uploading system which will change all the formatting - yuk!

After researching - this is the model Amanda Hocking started out with too - so I'm going with my hunch.

Now, I hear the formatting is a pain and that is takes several days to upload so I am already practicing to make sure every format is aligned and perfect. And planning to start uploading Thanksgiving week.

If anyone has any other tips on formatting, please speak now!

How to choose ebook pricing?

I'm still deciding on this one - it's either 2.99$ or 3.99$.


1) Impulse Buys
It is a marketing fact - that anything under $5 is considered prime for an impulse buy.I've done research and believe that $2.99 is a sweet spot for impulse buy on books. Not that I want my book to be an impulse buy. But if a book is under $4.99, the chances of someone buying it right when they see it is much higher.  Anything over $5, especially when you get up to over 10$ is a "thought purchase". This means the consumer will go away,  think about it, and hopefully come back (or not). So since I am a debut author and no one loves me yet :), I'm going for impulse buy and hope that my cover and jacket copy sells the lower price when they see it.

2) Royalty
Also on Amazon and B&N the royalty I get is higher if the book is over $2.99. If I did under that - the royalty is much lower and the benefits they offer are lower as well.

For example - From amazon - they offer 2 different pricing structures:

With the 70% royalty option, the minimum list price for a book is $2.99. The 70% royalty option also has the Kindle “Book Lending” feature enabled by default.

Any book under this price must be listed under the 35% royalty option.  Under the 35% royalty option, you can disable this lending feature. So, the tricky part is to figure out where you will sell more books, either under the 35% royalty or the 70% royalty option.

3) Value vs. cost debate

Why not the infamous $0.99? I'll tell you why :)

I believe you get what you pay for. And statistically, value is ingrained in people's heads - subconsciously we go for value over price most times. 

Example: This is why I still buy Philadelphia cream cheese and not Publix/Kroger brand. Even though Kroger is cheaper - the value I think I'm getting with Philadelphia is greater so I will pay the higher price - gladly. They could be made exactly the same way and I might never know in a taste test - but my perception is that I get more value with Philadelphia.

Giving consumers more value and a lower price is golden marketing concept. Finding that price point is the key. And I do not claim to know all - these are just my thoughts from what I know.

Now some will say my example above is more due to brand recognition - but the supermarket brands are just as well known as Philadelphia so I disagree.

Anyway, my book is worth more than .99$. Why? It's been edited, has a professional cover, and is good enough to justify a higher price.  I want people to know they are getting a book worth 2.99$

So That's it - Untraceable will be available in all formats - I will control Amazon and B&N and Smashwords will control the rest. The price point will either 2.99 or 3.99 (I'll let you know when I decide but would love your feedback. Which one would you be more apt to buy it at?)

If you have a different opinion or different research - please let me know. I am BY NO MEANS the expert. This is a ebook test and totally a test. I'm just sharing my thought process along the way and my marketing mind set. 

And BTW, any of you could do this research too. So this is not me being all brilliant. It's me taking the time to look into what I feel is important. 

My goal is to take what I know in marketing, use all the best practices I know from traditional publishing, and then marry them with what I find out about ebooking process. 

Hopefully a winning formula!

Let me know what questions you have or what you think!


Tere Kirkland said...

Shelli, thanks so much for being so frank and honest about the work you're putting into this experiment. I love reading these posts and I'm interested to see the results!

Jill Myles said...

Don't opt out of the format on Smashwords. Opt out of the distribution. You still want to make those formats available for purchase.

Also? Smashwords does not feed to Amazon. Ever. Your only course of action is to put it up directly unless you go through a third party (such as BookBrewer).

Copyediting might cost you a bit more than the money you have alloted, and you'll probably want to speak with a copyeditor sooner rather than later, as a lot of them are booked up (there are a LOT of people self-publishing right now). My editor is fab but she is also booked up until March. :)

Ben Woodard said...

Hi Shelli. You may already know this, but Scrivener software will compile your book in mobi and epub. You can then open the file in Kindle or Nook, and see exactly what it looks like before you upload it. You don't have to deal with html for Kindle, or trust that Amazon will format your doc or pdf file correctly. Take a look at it.

Laurel Garver said...

My question about going with three different e-book distributors (Smashworld, Amazon and B&N) is whether you'll need to purchase your ISBN independent of them. Sorry if you covered this already...

Leigh Moore is taking on editing clients. You can find her at http://leightmoore.blogspot.com/

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

wow JIll and Ben - thank you - Ill make sure I do that.

Laurel - I believe smashwords (if I upgrade my account or so) will issue me one. So i think I can use that but Im still looking into that. Ill make sure I get back to you. :)

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

Also - anyone correct me if Im wrong - But you dont need an ISBN if you are just doing amazon or B&N - but others (like itunes) requires one.

Elle Strauss said...

Great tips here and from the commenters too!

I chose 2.99 for the impulse buy. I will probably go to 3.99 for my second book, but I wanted to get my name out there first. I'll likely use the .99 point in the future with "older" books to help promote new books and to give the older books a sales boost. That's my plan anyway. :)

Elle Strauss said...

Oh, yeah, I recommend Leigh too. www.leighmoore.blogspot.com

She just edited my second book and did a fab job.

Kelly Polark said...

Wow! Thanks for laying this all out for us! Good luck!

Julie Hedlund said...

Wow - these posts are so informative! I'm navigating some of this same territory myself. Haven't decided yet whether I'm going to take the plunge, but it's a mind-exploding amount to learn in a short period of time, no?

Question about formatting. Does that mean you are formatting for B&N & Amazon and Smashwords is doing the others, or do you have to format for Smashwords and then they make it available in all the other formats?


Jemi Fraser said...

There's so much to learn!!! I wish I could help, but everyone else seems to know more. I definitely do the 'stop and consider' when a book is $4.99 or more. I have bought a lot of books at the $2.99 price point. Either price should work.

E. Arroyo said...

I agree awesome info!

Natalie Aguirre said...

I didn't realize the royalty would change if the price is different. Interesting.

I've used Smashwords before to download an e-book to my computer. not sure you can on Amazon & B&N. Some of us have no e-reader. I don't plan to get one. They're expensive and most of the books I buy are to give away on my blog either with an author interview or random giveaway. The rest I read at the library. You might want to think about this in terms of marketing.

Thanks for all the helpful info.

Anita said...

You don't need an ISBN, but Smashwords will give you one if you do the Premium catalog. Amazon has their own special #. I wouldn't buy your book for $3.99 and I like you. Rude, but honest. Good luck!

Katie Anderson said...

Wow. FASCINATING info, Shelli! You have done a LOT of work!

Loving this Xperiment!!!

Michael Di Gesu said...

Thanks Shelli for all your hard work on research. We all appreciate the time you took and sharing this information with us.

I might be going this route soon and your posts are so helpful.

Good luck with your venture. If you still need a host let me know I have some time available in December if that is when your are launching. November as well.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

What impresses me here, Shelli, is that you're being honest about EVERYTHING, including the cost you're incurring. I don't think a lot of writers understand this part. It's not cheap if you do it right. And doing it right means having a professional editor.

The amount you're paying out also sounds realistic. A friend of mine paid $250 total to self publish her book (this amount is only for the ebook side of things), and that included the editor. Yeah, I was wondering how she managed to do it so cheaply, too. I know she's also published with Carina Press, so maybe this has something to do with it (somehow). When she told me how much she paid to self pub a different book that didn't require an editor (it had been close to being sold with one NYC publisher), it was only $50 less than when she hired a professional editor. I'm thinking it's a friend who only charged a very nominal fee.

I'm looking forward to hearing more about what you're doing.

Huntress said...

I agree with you about the pricing. Your logic sounds like the Goldilocks syndrome: Not too hot, not too cold. Just right.

Gail said...

I have a friend who published an ebook recently and wrote about formatting on his blog. You can check it out from his web page:

lisanowak said...

Your research looks accurate based on my experience as an indie author. I think you've chosen the right price and the right distributors for the right reasons. You don't have to pay anything to Smashwords, though, unless it has something to do with them giving you an ISBN. I wouldn't know about that since I bought my own. In your case, since you only plan to do this one book and your finances are limited, you might consider purchasing 20 ISBNs from Bowker. You'll need at least four. One for Smashwords, one for Amazon, one for Barnes and Noble, and one for POD if you intend to release the book that way. You can get 20 for $250. If you get just one it costs $125. I sprung for 100, but that's a chunk of change at $575. It's true that Amazon has it's own numbering system, but it's still more professional to give a book an ISBN. Whoever owns the ISBN is considered the publisher, so if you want to be the publisher (rather than Amazon) you need an ISBN.

Formatting isn't that tough. If you follow the Smashwords Style Guide (a free download) you won't have any trouble. Be sure to use the nuclear option to get rid of all the wonky formatting Word tosses in a document. I have illustrated notes on how to convert your Smashwords Word doc to Mobi (Kindle) and ePub (B&N). I plan to make this available for free on Smashwords in the next few days. I'll email you a copy when I get a chance.

As far as copyediting goes, even if you hire someone, things are likely to sneak through. It's a good idea to have several people read it to check for typos. I also downloaded WordTalk to my computer and had it read my Word documents back to me. You find a lot of missing and transposed words this way. Stuff our eyes seem to skip over.

DL Hammons said...

This series continues to be a valuable read, including all of the comments which is one reason I love this blogosphere. The flow of information is so multi-directional, which benefits everybody! Thanks again for doing this!