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When is the Right Time to Discount Your Book?

12 January 2016

From BookBub:

Discounting an ebook can be an effective way to drive a high volume of downloads, increase revenue, boost a book up the retailer rankings, build author buzz, and more. And promoting that discount via services like BookBub can expose the book to millions of power readers eager for a good deal. But when should you consider dropping the price of one of your books?

. . . .

 When you’re launching a new book in a series

When you launch a new book in a series, discounting the first book of the series can be a great way to drive sales for that new release. The lower price point will attract new readers who will be eager to find out what happens next in the series. And they’re often willing to pay more for the subsequent books — 77% of bargain readers also buy full-priced books.

If you decide to run a discount to promote the newest book in a series, there are a few best practices to keep in mind:

  • Discount the first book in the series. On average, our partners have seen a 5x higher increase in sales of the other books in a series when the first book is discounted vs. any other book in the series.
  • Make the first book free. Downloads of free books featured by BookBub are 10x higher than downloads for $0.99 books. Also, if you make the first book in the series free, the later books in the series will sell 8x more copies than if you price the first book at $0.99 or higher.
  • Promote the subsequent book in the first book’s back matter. Our partners see a 3x higher increase in sales of other books in the series if links are included in the back matter of the discounted book. Go in order so readers know which book comes next in the series without getting confused.

. . . .

When you’re releasing a new standalone

If you’re releasing a new title that’s a standalone or isn’t part of an existing series, discounting one of your backlist books is still an effective way to gain exposure for the new release. After all, 63% of bargain readers have purchased other books by an author they discovered as part of a price promotion.

Make sure to promote the new release in the back matter of the book you’re discounting. Because readers aren’t already hooked on the story or characters of your new release, include a short excerpt or the first chapter from your new release. Make sure this excerpt ends on a cliffhanger so readers are intrigued enough to purchase the new book.

Link to the rest at BookBub

Advertising-Promotion, Pricing

18 Comments to “When is the Right Time to Discount Your Book?”

  1. After what initial marketing you do, I think the key is don’t discount the first for any length of time unless it will drive them to your second (etc.).

    Otherwise, all you’re teaching people is that YOUR work is only worth the discounted price.

    I remember when Darcie Chan was reported to have sold 600,000 copies of The Mill River Recluse (including one to me) at 0.99. Didn’t sound right then, and still doesn’t. I believe she then went to a traditional publisher and traditional prices, but haven’t checked the prices.

    Anyone know?

    • I remember when that book was a fixture on the bestseller lists. It looks like she’s now published by Random House, all her books are priced at $5.99, and she’s no longer at the top of the lists.

      But if she sold 600K copies as an indie at 99c each (netting her 34c per copy), she made $200K before NY came calling. Good on her.

  2. That is a simple question.

    You should discount your book the day before I decide to buy it.

  3. My instincts say Book Bub and Alicia are right. If there’s only the one book, why put it on sale? You want people to discover you and keep coming back; they might not remember you if they have to wait for the next book.

    And they’re often willing to pay more for the subsequent books — 77% of bargain readers also buy full-priced books.

    So long as it’s understood that the full-price is not outrageous. Don’t sell me a $2 discount on a $14-per-book-series. That’s not gonna work.

    When you’re releasing a new standalone

    Okay, so this does work. I wondered. I would guess that this only works if the other books are similar, though — no sweet romance to juice the sales of your gritty thrillers.

    Nate said, You should discount your book the day before I decide to buy it.

    I’ve wondered if it matters if the sale is on a Friday (payday) vs. the days leading up to payday. In this economy it seems like it might make a difference? Then again, there’s probably a reason new movies are released on a Tuesday and airlines have lower prices on that day.

    Anyone have an ad-campaign postmortem to share?

    • Kboards has plenty of promo post-mortems to study. I would check there.

      And yes, if you only have one book out, forget promo. You need to focus on getting the next book out. And the next. And the next. Build your list — all in the same genre, preferably all in one series, with compelling characters who keep readers coming back for more. That’s how you earn readers’ trust, build your name into a brand, and develop a sustainable career as an author. I wouldn’t worry about promo until you have 3 books up.

      Of course, this advice only applies if your goal is to earn money. If you’re not interested in money, then by all means, take as much time as you want writing that second book. Make each book a standalone. Jump all over dabbling in different genres so readers never know what to expect from you. Create confusion instead of building an author brand. That pretty much guarantees you’ll get to go through life as a starving artiste. 😉

    • On the other hand, I tried discounting the first book of a series on its debut (before the sequels came out), and it was my most successful book release yet. Sure, I made only $0.35 apiece on the 3,000 or so copies I sold over the 12-day Holiday Promo, but the 500,000+ KENP pages read more than made up for it, and it got the book some great AZ rankings (topping off at #92 on the Paid in Kindle list), which when the book sale ended is still making the book a huge seller. And in three months, when book #2 comes out, I’ll put the first book back on sale.

      The sale allowed me to use a few promo services (I spent about $120 on promo websites and FB ads), which got the book up to the Hot New Release list in a couple categories, which got eyeballs on the book, which snowballed into a bit of a hit. So maybe releasing the first book of your series at a discount isn’t that terrible an idea. Admittedly, the success of that release could have been a fluke, but I plan on using the same marketing plan for my next new series later in the year.

      • Thanks for the data point, C.J. And Shelly, thanks for reminding me about Kboards. I keep forgetting about them; probably not wise of me.

  4. And please discount the first book in a series and not the third or fourth, especially if its written as a serial, where you have to have read the earlier books to understand what’s going on in every later book. That just annoys people. It doesn’t encourage them to buy the others.

    • Thanks for that. I was thinking of possibly discounting book two. I just discounted book one for a BookBub ad. Decided not to go free, because last December BookScream picked me up (when they were first starting) on my three free days as I was ending my Kindle Select period. 2,000 downloads and only a handful of sales of book 2 taught me not to go free.

      I dropped book one down to 99 cents. Got over 500 sales in four days. The sales for books 2 and 3 are starting to trickle in. We’ll see what happens next.

    • Seconded.

      I saw a writing friend of mine discount her *entire* series to 99ct per book for the release of Book 5. That really annoyed me when I had bought each book faithfully for the full price.

      That promo didn’t do well, and her sales dropped massively after that…

      • I suspect your reaction may be more typical. I used to buy anime series on DVDs, and one company, ADV, offered a “thinpak” of a series I bought. The fans who had bought the regular-sized DVDs one at a time (plus the artbox) were annoyed that those of us who came along later got a better price with the thinpak, which had the complete collection, just in thinner cases. I take from this the lesson to not make loyal fans feel like suckers.

        Instead, I wish it were possible to allow readers who bought previous books in the series to get preferential discounts for the later books. I’m imagining writers offering pre-order discounts to anyone who clicks the pre-order link in the writers’ newsletters. But I think that strategy would require Amazon’s cooperation.

  5. I discounted book one in my “City Lights” series for a time. I got no bump in sales for any of the three titles. So like anything else in this crazy world of 2016 book promo, it depends on factors we can’t always suss out.

    • Did you advertise the discount?

      • You mean, like trying for BookBub or something of that nature? I didn’t go for BB because at that time you had to have a load of reviews, and my book didn’t. But the promo I could do, I did, and basically got few, if any, sales.

  6. I uploaded the first book of my series On tuebl, and ever since then, The sales for the entire series has increased.

  7. When I made the first in series free, sales of 2 and 3 tripled and have stayed that way for over a month.

  8. I just ran some statistics on my Vampire Vlad V series where the first book is permafree since September. Although the permafree downloads quadrupled, the rest of the book sales in the series went down by -29%. On D2D the follow on sales of the series are less than 1% of the free downloads. This is contrary to all common sense. Vampire Vlad V book was successfully selling in the thousands, and it was in the top 100 since its launch in 2013. I’ll continue this experiment until June to see if there is a delayed reaction.

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