Pricing to Sell on Amazon – A Blog Survey

Jeff Bezos hawks a Kindle

According to a recent article from David Gaughran’s Blog,  66% of the Kindle Top 100 seller spots were held by Indie publishers. Of the 34% being sold by traditional publishers, HALF were titles at least 10 years old. That means only 1 of 6 titles being sold are new books from traditional publishers.

Analyzing the numbers, it appears that part of that is the fact that the traditionally published ebooks cost more. (Thus, their percent of revenue is higher.) On the surface, however, it suggests a troubling trend for traditional publishers. Either 1) they are still reluctant to issue new titles in ebook form, thus opening the door for wider acceptance of indie publishers, or 2) no one is buying their new titles, opting only for the older works.

The first scenario is great for author/publishers like me, as it gives indies a chance to prove our product is equal to big publishing’s product. Indeed, I would go so far as to suggest it is much more innovative, as most of the editorial hurdles we must pass are self-imposed. That is to say, indie publishers do not need to care if a title is “sellable” (read, generic), we only need care that it is well-written and edited. Were I traditional publishing, I would be very cautious about allowing a new generation of web-connected readers to discover their product is not superior, despite the higher prices.

The second scenario is more troublesome for traditional publishing. If they are indeed offering their product in ebook form, in a timely manner, being outsold by lower-cost indies should rattle their cages a bit. It is doubtful traditional publishing will ever be able to meet an indie’s lower cost structure, but, in theory, should not a reader pay more for a better product?

Of course, none of these ebook sales figures state whether the books were actually read. One factor is that Amazon includes “borrowed” titles in their sales figures. For an Amazon Prime customer, a borrowed title can be free. Free books are very easy to download, even if you have no intention on reading.

For more sales figure info, check out Kevin O. McLaughlin’s Digital  Delta Blog post on this subject. McLaughlin broke out the SciFi Top 99 by price. Not surprisingly, all of the indie titles sold for $5.99 or less, while only 15 of 38 traditional sold for this price point. A similar story can be found in Fantasy titles, except the traditional price point is even higher. Why? Traditionals sell more Fantasy titles.

Bottom lines:

  • Readers will “try” an indie title, provided the investment is small.
  • Traditional publishers have a cost/revenue structure that makes it difficult or unappealing to sell below $6; however, they are beginning to figure out how to do so.
  • Kindle books have been outperforming print books since May of 2011. So, it’s a big enough market for traditional publishing to care.
  • If readers don’t buy cheaper indie titles, they can expect to pay $10 and up for traditional ebooks in the future. We indies are keeping the price down.

You’re welcome. 🙂

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