On pricing Her Substitute

Big topic, this. I’ve thought long and hard about pricing over the years (Yep, it’s been years – Practice to Deceive came out in 2013) and in the end, I’ve decided that a combination of my speed, my genre/niche and my sales all point to one thing: I’m pricing a little too low. Let me explain a bit.

The perceived wisdom on self-pubbed Kindle sales is to price at $2.99 and churn out fiction fast. That might work if you’re writing ‘vanilla’ erotica – and even, honestly, niche stuff, to a degree – but when you have an even smaller audience, it doesn’t work so great. At some point I’ll do a real sales post, but for now, let’s use made-up numbers. Say I sell 10 books a month at $1 each (this is purely for ease of math!). I’d make $7 off those sales, Amazon takes $3. In an ideal world I continue to sell 10 books a month continuously, and I have an income stream. I write more, expand catalogue, and $7 a month becomes $70 a month (10 books) becomes $700 (100 books!) and then somehow, I’m rich.

Except, it doesn’t work that way.

In three years of sales on Practice to Deceive, I’ve probably made a few hundred bucks. Now, I can always reach more people, for sure, and I work to do that through marketing, etc. But, given the subject matter (specifically using masks vs the more ‘traditional’ transgender approach), I’ve got inherent limitations on my audience size. You wonderful folk.

When I first launched Practice to Deceive I’m pretty sure I priced it at $7.99. After a while, seeing all of these people insist that you had to price at $2.99, I dropped to that number. Here’s the thing: sales didn’t change. So, eventually, I settled on $4.99. It’s been that way since.

When I was finishing up A Lie Within A Lie, which is about 30,000 words longer than Practice to Deceive (so, about 150K) I was worried about the price. I was also kind of worried about the subject matter (see this post). It had been a while since I’d launched a book, so I was feeling nervous. In the end I decided to split the book in two, with the first part priced at the ‘must-price’ $2.99 level, and the second at $6.99. Total, $9.98. If I’d launched at that number for one book, I feel confident I’d have gotten complaints, or sales would have suffered. As it was, the pricing seems to work. Sales are pretty equal on both parts, which means pleasingly, people generally seem to want to read the second part after they read the first.

Which leads me to the inevitable conclusion that yep, I can price higher than $2.99 for sure, and make more from less books. (This doesn’t mean I intend to write less, but my output isn’t going to go from one, two books a year to 10 overnight.)

Her Smile, by Ghostly WriterI tell you all this because frankly, I’m price sensitive on your behalf. I am personally always looking at my word and page counts, wondering to myself if the price seems ‘worth it’. But, I’ve sat by for way too long seeing many, many transgender ‘novels’ debut on Kindle with a sub-50 page count, for $2.99. (By contrast my only sub-50 page piece, Her Smile, is only 99c – the cheapest you can sell on Amazon.)

By any measure, compared to that, $4.99 for 262 pages for Her Substitute is really a bargain. (Let’s not start comparing with the real world either. Kindle books are regularly priced above that from ‘real’ publishers and of course, what does $5 get you these days? Not much, and I would certainly argue, it’s damn good dollar-to-hour entertainment value.)

As you can tell, this is something I’ve thought about a lot. I’m completely, utterly aware that if I ever want to make ‘serious’ money writing, I’ve got to up my output considerably. As I work on that however, I’ve got to remain sensitive to pricing, and to what the market – ie you – is willing to pay for.

I would love to hear your feedback on this, whether it’s good, bad or indifferent. As always, feel free to leave a comment below, or email me directly via the contact page.

We now return you to our scheduled smut, already in progress.