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Publishing 2012 – A Year in Review

I debated posting this. Strange as it seems, I’ve had pushback from sharing some of the details of my publishing journey. The reasons are many, and I won’t bore you with them. And yet, when I first started out, I really appreciated other writers sharing information. It helped me make informed decisions. To see what was happening out there. It took the fear of the unknown away.

So, in the end, I decided to share. Sorry, new readers of my fiction, but you may want to skip this one. For all you fellow writers, by all means read on.

I now have full tracking spreadsheets of 2011 and 2012. These spreadsheets bring together reports from all the retailers, organize that information, reference it to my own database of my work, and allow me to create many informative pivot tables to view the information in different ways. Each of those pivot tables allow me to see different types of trends.

As the information began piling up, I started noticing several interesting things, which ultimately resulted in this post.

First, I am not a writer who has hit it lucky with a bestseller. I think I’m one of those silent-majority average selling writers (As Hugh Howey says, “The outliers are not the self-publishing story. It’s the midlisters.”). We always hear about those who strike it rich or emerge as outliers. This is a post by someone who is a slow-build so-called ‘mid-lister’, and who is happy about that. I’m considered a prolific writer. I have a lot of books on the way, and many already out there, that might get lucky. The more published, the more chance I have of having a book hit it big.

Considering what I just said, it’s interesting to see the slow upward trend in sales. I attribute this to continuing to write and release new work. At this point in my career, I view that as the best marketing and promotion I can do. I’m doing all I can to increase backlist. (Great article by Kris Rusch: “The Business Rusch: Writing Like It’s 2009”)

But, let’s get to a few numbers.

Unit sales for 2011 (with 10 1/2 months of publishing): 718
Unit sales for 2012: 1359

Oh yeah. I like that upward trend. 89% increase in 2012. Imagine what I could have done if I could have kept the momentum going in the last half of 2012! (More on that later)

In April and May of 2012 I moved to a different pricing structure. I moved almost all of my work to $2.99 and up, as well as raising the longest novels up to $7.99. Aw, heck. Here are the current pricing tiers in case they help anyone else:

Fiction (10,000-15,000 words) & eDoubles $2.99
Fiction (15,000 to 25,000 words) $3.49
Fiction (25,000 to 40,000 words) $3.99
Fiction (40,000 to 55,000 words) $4.99
Fiction (55,000 to 70,000 words) $5.99
Fiction (70,000 to 85,000 words) $6.99
Fiction (85,000 words and up) $7.99

(Other ideas here at Dean Wesley Smith’s blog (read the comments!). The above numbers were decided on for multiple reasons, including the pricing survey I did here)

A lot of writers would scream doing such a thing would kill sales. Raise prices? Was I nuts?

But, did it kill sales?

Before this raise, the longest book was priced at a maximum of $4.99 (and that was from before when the novels were at $2.99. And sitting there barely selling. Raising them to $4.99 increased both unit sales and net revenue). Raising them to price points of the tier above increased the net revenue again, with unit sales staying the same, increasing, and once in a while dropping a little.

To be more specific: from March to April, overall units sold dropped 21.2%. However, income increased by 8.6%. So, yes, fewer unit sales, but my income went up.

And in May it went up even further, achieving my best month of that year. Not in units. January has the distinction of the most units moved in 2012. In fact, units dropped 7.9% from January’s total compared to May’s total. No, I’m talking about increasing in revenue. And how much did income increase compared to January?

A whopping 21%.

Think about that. Units went down 7.9%, but take-home pay went up 21 PERCENT compared to my highest-unit month. That’s huge!

Writing is my job. Units pushed is not everything, not by a long shot. Revenue taken home is a big factor. That’s what makes the difference between eating or not.

Some people have had success with cheaper prices. I tried that for well over a year, which was ironically during the time when this strategy was supposed to work better than it does in today’s publishing environment. Well, it didn’t help me.

What did help me? Raising the prices, and then leaving them there. Not panicking when the fall slump hit (I’ve known of the phenomena for some times, so why panic if this is a normal thing?). Not panicking when a month came out a little slow. (Kris Rusch has an excellent post on this here. Basic advice: stop obsessing.) There are so many things that can cause sales fluctuations, and 2012 had a lot of them (hint: don’t think of only the book industry. What other big things happened in 2012?).

In June and through the summer of 2012 I took classes and redid almost all the book descriptions and covers. Those upgrades plus the new pricing tiers resulted in 2012 whomping 2011 out of the park.

Then came the fall and winter. I won’t go into details, but lets just say that life hit from multiple directions at once . The plans I had in place of what works I would release in each month disappeared in a poof of dust. I hardly had any new releases in the last six months of 2012. If I hadn’t had such a productive first 6 months, I would have never reached my yearly writing goal. Writing for almost 6 months was minimal.

Because the new releases are my main form of promotion, I expected a hit (and not in a good way). Did I get one?


And yet the titles still out there continued to sell. With the higher retail prices, it meant each month of the fall of 2012 still beat anything in 2011. By a wide margin.

Now we are moving into 2013. I’m still building up speed after getting back on the writing-train. Life is still hitting, but I’m starting to polish up new work and getting it released (Salmon Run book 6 is finally out!). The sales of the first two months of 2013 are reflecting this. I’m still climbing out from the maintenance level of sales from the fall and winter of 2012, but both units and revenue are trending upwards.

For the sake of the amount of food in the pantry, this is a good thing. 😛


Value yourself. Get good first readers. If they are liking your stories, then it’s time to start valuing yourself. Price accordingly. Big publishers don’t bring out a new writer automatically at a lower price point just because they are new. They price them the same as their big sellers. Get your self-esteem issues out of this basic business decision. If you price lower (as I am now with one of my books) have a backlist in place first, (which I do, with 35+ works), and have it for a specific marketing reason. Such as the lead-in of a series.

When you make a big change such as details like pricing, cover, and/or book description, leave it! (Unless there is a very obvious problem) Don’t panic the moment sales drop for a week or a month or even two months. You may be reacting to the wrong thing. I know I would have been. This last year had many circumstances impacting sales, things out of control of any publisher, but a writer may not know or be aware of all of them. Give the changes a minimum of 6 months. Longer would be better, as it gives you a good baseline without all the short-period spikes and valleys distracting you. Then you can judge if the changes are working, or if you need to tweak things again.

Yes, sales slowly ramp up by themselves if you have a good book, without you going nuts with promotion. I talked about the last six months of 2012. Yes, sales dropped when I couldn’t get more work out. But, something very very interesting happened. The first month sales dropped drastically… and then for Each. And. Every. Single. Month after that sales in units increased. Out of those 6 months, only one month did not increase in revenue, but even then the shortage was not much. I figure that one month happened just because of the mix of books bought. Read what I just said before. To me, this was a huge deal. Everything left alone, and not only did books continue to sell, but they slowly started increasing again! Lord, I love this new publishing world.

The mix of books that sell month to month changes. Once I did a pivot table of titles by month, this really jumped out. One month one title will be your best seller. Another month, a different one. Having a backlist helps balance out the overall sales and revenue.

Diversify sales channels. Yes, I know. That sets the people who are doing well in KDP Select foaming at the mouth. The thing is, not everyone does well with it. Looking at my spreadsheets, I’m seeing Amazon accounting for 66-87%. Which means the other sales channels are ranging between 13-33% of my income. I need that income, and I welcome the readers who bring it in. In total, Amazon was 70% for the year, and other income streams settling in at 30%. (One of these days I’ll figure out the percentage of US buyers compared to other countries. Sorry, I don’t have the time right now, but it is increasing. Especially through Kobo and Apple. Not so much with Amazon.)

Increase control by going direct. When Kobo’s Writing Life opened in the summer of 2012, I jumped at the chance to go direct despite their high payment threshold. The ability to format a book description was huge. Before, by going through Smashwords, the descriptions came out in one big ugly lump. I don’t blame readers for passing right by. Also, by going direct, I could custom set prices according to currency. Did going direct help? My sales at Kobo increased 95% compared to the 6 months before. Suddenly I had sales! So, yes, it did help.

Plans for 2013

Release more in the ongoing series. Series are where I make a majority of my sales. Heck, I may even start writing new series! (Oh, and for you String Weaver fans, yes the next books are coming!)

Do my best to release regularly. Almost every month I release something new, even if it’s a short story or a novelette, sales push upwards. One strange observation is that the increase in sales does not always come from the new release. Instead, it comes from the other backlist. Readers seeing the new release on the “New Releases” lists and then clicking through backlist and buying those instead? In any case, I need to keep the new release momentum going if at all possible.

I wanted to go direct with Apple, but they also have a high payment threshold and right now, looking at the numbers, it doesn’t make sense. So, I’m reluctantly staying with Smashwords for that distribution as right now description formatting is making it over to Apple. Also, I figured out how to use Scrivener to create Smashwords-compatible .doc files (no more extra hours-plus formatting time!). Good thing, as Word does not inhabit my current computer and never will. I will review this decision as the backlist and sales increase.

Apply what I learned from Dean Wesley Smith’s “Pitches and Blurbs” online workshop. I can now see why some of my books were selling more. I had fumbled around and accidentally found a few good working description without realizing it. Now that I consciously know the elements that go into a good sales-pitch, it’s time to get the other books up to snuff!

Have lots of fun writing new work!

That last one is important. I want to have fun writing this year, and learning more about the craft. Give the readers fun stories, with each of them improving on the last. Write, learn, write more, release. Rinse. Repeat.

As a writer, and a reader, I can’t think of anything better!


J.A. Marlow

Aurora Equinox (Salmon Run – Book 6)

Welcome to Salmon Run, Alaska! A place of wild animals, wild land, and wild inhabitants…oh, and native legends come alive and an inter-planetary alien conflict at their backdoor.

With the equinox come the aurora and the itch of spring…

Good moods are scarce in Salmon Run these days. Zach Callahan’s lingering foul mood even manages to drive off Sasha. His concerned father insist on a check-up visit to the local spaceship just as Zach discovers a threat worthy of true worry:

The return of a threat from the south.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

Clarifying Smashwords File Formats and Distribution Channels

I’ve seen a question and assumption on an author loop several times, and I thought I would post about it here just in case anyone reading my blog is confused.

The issue? Some believe that if they allow Smashwords to create a .mobi file that it automatically distributes to Amazon, and they want to do that themselves. So, they uncheck the option. Or that if they allow Smashwords to create a .epub file that it automatically distributes to Barnes and Noble and they want to do that themselves. So, they uncheck the option.

Uh, no. That is a wrong assumption.

Smashwords File Formats and Distribution Channels

To be clear, the two things mentioned above do not have anything to do with each other. I’ve seen people assume this without verifying by looking through Smashwords documentation or asking them. So, here we go…

File Formats: When you upload your Word document you are given an option on which formats you will allow the Meatgrinder to convert into. This is for ebook formats SOLD ON SMASHWORDS! You do not want to limit what a customer can buy on Smashwords, as you have no idea what format they need for their preferred ereader.

Did you know Amazon tacks on a $2 surcharge to purchases from a large part of the world? That people outside the US cannot buy from Barnes & Noble?

Do not limit what your customers can buy there! They may have a Kindle and need a .mobi, but refuse to buy at Amazon. My earnest suggestion is to allow Smashwords to create all formats possible.

Distribution Channels: Yes, if you are approved for expanded distribution, your ebooks are automatically sent to all of the Smashwords distribution partners. Using the “Channel Manager” option on the left side of the Dashboard you can control which distributors your ebooks are sent to.

If you want to distribute to Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, or Kobo yourself, then uncheck those specific options. It’s as simple as that. Meanwhile, the file formats will still be available to potential customers on the Smashwords site itself (See note above about File Formats).

NOTE: Even though the “Channel Manager” lists Amazon as a partner, this is not currently true. Smashwords does not distribute to Amazon at this time because of delays on the Amazon end. Honestly, I would be very surprised if Amazon ever opens up to allowing Smashwords to distribute ebooks into their website and catalog.

To summarize, the two issues are different (even though on the technical back end they may be related). You want all file formats to be available to all Smashwords customers. If you don’t want a book distributed to a specific vendor, then use the “Channel Manager” page.


A Redpoint One RomanceJ.A. Marlow

A Turn of the Pipes

An alien newt leads to… love?

Rachel Henderkito’s job of taking care of Redpoint One’s plumbing problems isn’t easy, especially when citizen pets clog up the pipes. After fishing an alien newt out of the pipes for a third time she takes the creature back to its owner for a stern warning.

Ignacio Manetti is determined to help keep rare alien newts and salamanders off the extinction list. He doesn’t have time for romance, nor for the heart-breaking memories it brings with it.

Add in an alien flying squirrel, preparations for Redpoint One’s annual Exotic Pet Show, and the lovably interfering Naughty Knitter’s Club, how can romance not bloom?

Except Rachel and her bot hate his rare Mandian Ruffled Newt while he unconditionally loves it.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | SmashwordsKobo

Creating A New Pen Name for Already-Published Work

This post is inspired by a comment I made to Dean Wesley Smith’s reprinting of his “The New World of Publishing: Pen Names” blog article. In the comments someone asked if they should rebrand work to a new pen name that they have already published. That’s a hard question to answer.

First, decide why you would want a different pen name for the works in question. Go read Dean’s post on the subject and then think it over. Make the decision based on business reasons, not emotion.

My suggestion is to make the decision now and not put it off to later. Then stick with that decision, whichever way you choose to go.

Okay, you’ve done that and you are now sure these stories need a new pen name?

This was me this spring. I’d already published 3 stories in the “Gateway Roadhouse” series by the time I made this decision. Yes, three stories already out in the wilds selling.

The problem was compounded by a fourth story waited in the wings, just about ready to come back from the editor. Then I started getting other ideas that sorta fit with the series, with some of them branching off into a completely different genre that are even further from the works I write and release under the “J.A. Marlow” pen name. The more the ideas came, the more uncomfortable I grew about having everything under one name.

Okay, decision made. Time for a plan.

Now, my sales are not huge, as in not hundreds per month, but they do chug along at a consistent rate. Still, I worried about putting off any readers I did have. I also took this opportunity as a chance to look over absolutely everything about the books. Here is what I ended up doing:

  1. Researched the types of author names in the subgenre. Then started looking for a short name (to make it easier to fit on a cover) that I could brand for this specific genre and subgenre. I also checked to see if the domain name was available and once the decision on the name was finalized I grabbed it.
  2. Covers: Used what I have learned over the past year+ to create stronger and more professional covers. I also branded them to a specific design to make them stand out as their own and not look like anything under my main penname.
  3. Revisited the series name. “Gateway Roadhouse” still worked as it’s the location that is common to all the stories, but characters are not. Neither is it a ‘series’ in that the stories can be read in almost any order (barring perhaps the first two). After more research and talking to other writers, the “Gateway Roadhouse Series” was changed to “Tales from the Gateway Roadhouse Chronicles”.
  4. Rechecked the book descriptions and ended up rewriting all of them. Again, this is because I’ve grown stronger and learned a lot about writing book descriptions. I might as well apply it!
  5. Redid the back-matter of all the ebooks and started promoting the series within itself with the listings of “Other Books From This Author” portion.
  6. With all the ebook files now changed, it was time to go to all the retailers to update the product listings. This mean changing the descriptions, the penname, files, and covers (Plus I rechecked the categories the ebooks were listed in). This was painless to do other than taking time.
  7. Contacted Amazon to help me create a new penname author page and on request, they were kind enough to move the book listings from my old pen name to the new one (as far as I can tell there isn’t a way for an author to do this transfer themselves).
  8. Posted to my blog about the rebranding as it’s an open penname.
  9. Other possible step: With Amazon it’s possible to contact KDP customer service and ask them to push a new version of the ebooks out to previous customers. As far as I know, this is not possible with the other retailers, although the new versions are immediately available for new download at Smashwords and DriveThruFiction if the customer notices.
  10. Other possible step: Set up any social media accounts for the new name. For those who do not participate actively in social media, this step can be skipped (But do consider creating a static webpage for the new domain).

I’m now a couple months in from the change, and the interesting thing is that sales have increased. I’m sure it’s a combination of all the things I did to prepare for the re-branding and not one specific thing, but it’s still a great surprise. And this without having time yet to create and put up the static webpage for the new name!

It’s odd that sometimes once you make a decision and just do it, everything in your mind and body tells you it is either the wrong or right thing to do. For me, this was the right thing to do. I don’t regret it at all.


A science fiction retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood"J.A. Marlow

A planet-wide conspiracy is waiting at Grandmother’s house…

An invitation to visit Grandmother’s house, nestled among the giant trees filling the planet, gives Kate a welcome respite from Uncle Travis’s attempts to take over her and her mother’s life. But, there is no time for rest. A conspiracy among the forest inhabitants, moving trees, and other mysteries await her at Grandmother’s house.

Kate learns just how little she knew of the forests, much less its animals. To survive she must learn fast, and that includes trust and teamwork.

And just where was Grandma, anyway?

A Science Fiction stand-alone novel retelling of the fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood”.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | Kobo

Effective Ebook Front and Back Matter

This article is not about the story itself. It will assume you have finished the work in questions and are now making the hard decisions that come with publishing. One of the most time-consuming is putting together the front matter and the back matter of an ebook for the first time.

Yes, we can use the print books we likely have around us as a guideline, but those are print books. Ebooks are completely different animal when it comes to the format, presentation, and mode of selling. Items which may seem like a no-brainer need to be rethought.

Many ebook buyers have learned to download samples from their favorite retailer to be sure they like it enough to buy it. This is the equivalent to readers browsing through the pages of a print book in a bookstore, flipping to the start of the book, then maybe to the middle.

Only, an ebook sample is not the entire book. A reader cannot flip to various areas to see if it suits them. A typical ebook sample is the first 10-30% before the reader needs to buy the work before reading anymore. Because of this, be careful of what you put at the front of an ebook. This is valuable space, as many retailers have pre-defined sample percentages which the author or publisher cannot alter.

Make the most of this space.

To help you along, below are a few guidelines of items which one might see in the front matter or back matter of an ebook:

Title Page: Is a title page still needed in the ebook world? Doesn’t it just repeat the title and author name? Well, it does those two things, but it can also do much more. Many times it will include a curtailed copyright notice (more on this later), but there is also something else an author/publisher should consider, and that is “sample conversion.”

This is one area where ebooks really excel. Many readers are downloading samples of the work to their ereaders or ebook programs, and then going through them at their leisure. This is great for the readers, but it presents a problem. Readers are sampling so much now that they are losing track of all of them. They cannot remember what the story was about or what attracted them to a specific work by only the title or cover. How is that sampling converted into a sale?

My advice: Place a very short description on the title page. By short, I mean very short. Two paragraphs maximum, and if you can manage it, one paragraph or even one sentence. The shorter the better, otherwise you threaten to take up valuable sample space.

Dedication: In print books this is always in the front matter of the ebook. It’s a way to thank special people or for the author to make a specific declaration.

My Advice: As the sample becomes so important, it may be time to push this off into the ebook back matter. Or, another option may be to combine it with the title page.

Character Lists: Some books are so long and complicated they need a ‘cheat-sheet’ listing the various characters. Often, this will include where they are living or where they are from, or other information to help a reader remember them.

My advice: List on the Table of Contents and put it in the back matter. A reader shouldn’t need it to get started.

Images: Have a map you want to include in the ebook? As a reader, I find these fun sometimes, and give me a visual cue of where characters are moving or where events occurred. Mysteries are one genre where maps are particularly popular.

My advice: List it on the Table of Contents, and then put in the back matter of the novel. If the reader wants to see it, they can navigate to it using the (usually automatically generated) internal TOC linking.

Other Books Available: If a writer has produced more than one book, the front matter will often list several more. I love these as a reader, as I will hunt down all the other books written by a writer I like. For promotion and marketing, this can be the best way to drive backlist sales.

My advice: Keep this, but reconsider where it is located. As I mentioned before, the sample is valuable. Place it in the back matter immediately after the finish of the story. The only exception would be for a series. I’ve personally found that it works well to list other books of the series, in order, on the title page right under the title and author name.

About the Author: I love these as a reader, as well. We get to learn a little bit about the author, what their interests are, and hopefully ways to follow more of their work.

My advice: As a reader of print books, I see the “About the Author” sections most often on the back jacket of a hardback or in the back matter of a paperback. This is a good place for it. For marketing and promotion reasons, also include your webpage address and other ways readers can connect. This is also a good way to drive traffic to a newsletter.

Copyright: In print books the copyright statement usually goes in the front of the book. It’s usually written in small letter, and almost everyone skips them.

My advice: For ebooks, rethink the placement. Again, the front of an ebook is valuable for selling the ebook to samplers. If you feel uncomfortable leaving everything out, then craft a small one-paragraph copyright and place it on the title page (you can use a modified version of Smashwords’ copyright declaration) and then place the larger and expanded version in the back of the ebook. This will save front sample space as well as keep intact the full copyright page with all the information you may need to include.

Samples of Other Work: This is something that is showing up more and more often even in print books in the form of the first three to five pages of another work to be available by the same author or the imprint in the near future. It’s been used with great success, and so ebook publishers and authors have followed copied the technique.

My advice: This is a good practice with a proven track record, but there are a few things to be mindful of when it comes to ebooks.
1. Keep it short. Do not allow all the back matter to go over 15% of the total ebook. This can result in reader complaints who upon reaching 80% thought the book would go on for a while more and suddenly find the story to an end.
2. With ebooks the reader has become addicted to and expects instant gratification. If they want a book they can buy it, download it, and be reading in minutes. For this reason, think long and hard before sampling a work that is not yet available for sale. The reader might move on to a book by a different author and completely forget about yours by the time it is released.
3. For an effective sample, choose something with a similar theme or genre/subgenre. It will increase the chances the reader of the current work will be interested in and purchase the sampled work.

Last advice: Once you have made the decisions on what format you want your front matter and back matter, consider creating templates. This will make any future ebook publishing faster, less stressful, and more accurate. Why make this harder on the future-you?

Front matter and back matter of a novel (or short story) may seem like a simple thing, but as demonstrated above, the decisions you make can make a big difference. Use them wisely and you will create a better reader experience, as well as convert reader samplers into sales and generate interest in backlist.

These are important considerations for anyone in the business for the long-haul. A little time and effort now can pay off big in the long run.


J.A. Marlow

Coffee Cup Dreams New CoverCoffee Cup Dreams

She wasn’t supposed to wake up when dead…

During what should have been a simple operation, Tish Douglas died. And yet, she also awoke… in what the doctors called a ‘psi event.’

Despite having no memory of the incident, it means she’s required to go on a life-time course of debilitating drugs designed to reign in her supposedly new psi gifts. She’s left with the option of existing on Earth in a drug-haze, or leave the planet.

When an opportunity for a good paying job on a space station known as Redpoint One is offered, she jumps at the chance. Even though she doesn’t have any experience as a ‘maintenance engineer.’ Even though the station sits in the middle of nowhere, a still-operating construct of a long-gone alien species.

Between pirate attacks, intelligent repair robots, and maintenance emergencies, Tish must find a place for herself.

All complicated by a growing attraction to the one person on the station she can’t have: boss Arthur Getty.

A stand-alone 48400 word, 193 page (approximate), science fiction romance novel.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

Amazon 47North – Pricing Analysis

“For our customers who are avid readers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, we’re happy to introduce 47North, the latest imprint from Amazon Publishing. 47North offers a wide array of new novels and cult favorites, from urban fantasies to space operas, alternate histories to gothic and supernatural horror.”

As I write science fiction, this is the area of the 47North catalogue I will focus in on. They are still rolling out the pre-orders, so the science fiction portion is a small percentage of the overall count. (8 books out of 35)

Even if we have only 8 books, here is the breakdown in book pricing:

$9.99 List discounted to $7.99

$9.99 List discounted to $3.99

$9.99 List discounted to $2.99

Yes, all of the above are ebooks with a list price of $9.99. All of them are discounted, with some more than others. 47North is one of Amazon’s newer imprints, and this shows in the pricing and discounts. Amazon is using pricing to help get a foothold. All but 2 of the books are pre-order and not yet shipping.

Interesting numbers on the science fiction side, but what about if we include all of the 47North genres, bringing in science fiction, fantasy, and horror? Here are the ebook numbers:

34 books total (One .99 ebook tossed out of the analysis as it appears to be the Indie novella version)

$9.99 List discounted to $7.99

$9.99 List discounted to $6.88

$9.99 List discounted to $6.39

$9.99 List discounted to $4.99 (One $5 ebook is included in this)

$9.99 List discounted to $3.99

$9.99 List discounted to $2.99

$2.99 List with no discount

$1.99 List with no discount

Again, the list price on 21 ebooks out of 34 as $9.99 is striking. All of these are novels, and all of them have the $9.99 list price, even if they are all discounted at the present time to $7.99-2.99.

Looking at the above, it appears as if the $2.99 price is edging in on the $7.99 price, doesn’t it? Only, on closer inspection it does not.

See, all the ebooks priced strictly $2.99 without discounting are novellas between 63 and 125 pages. The only novel among the $2.99 ebooks is the one with a list price of $9.99 and discounted to $2.99. The latter is mostly likely because of what I mentioned before: Amazon is positioning the line to gain readers.

Looking closer revealed a few other key things.

The novellas are not in print. Only 3 novellas together in a collection are in print, and the collections range from a list price of $9.99 and $7.99, discounted to $6.88 to $5. Meanwhile, all the novels are slated for both ebook and print, with the books having an across-the-board list price of $14.95, which, of course, are deeply discounted (but with print, Amazon is known for this).

As Amazon starts to sell the imprint catalogue and more books are put out, the pricing structure could change. The above is only what Amazon is starting out with, but considering the information they have on the back-end, it does provide a solid basis of where they believe the best pricing points are for all three of these genres.

(One caveat on the above findings is that 47North is a new imprint. It is still finding its legs. I’ll do another analysis in about 6 months to see how it is shaping up. I’m sure Amazon will be looking at its price structure a lot more often than that. Heh.)

In fact, studying the page breakdown of those books that listed page numbers (17 ebooks with listed page numbers), here are the findings:

Novels of 275 pages or more

Novellas of 63-125 pages

Looking at list prices, here is what Amazon is doing for list price in these genres for specific lengths:



Interesting list prices, aren’t they? Yes, they are all discounted to $7.99 and below, but I do find it interesting. It tells me Amazon has found in its database that these are the target prices it believes these books should sell at. I, as an Indie and small press, am paying attention.

Especially after the Romance Writers of America “Readership Stats” survey, which came up with the following little tidbits of pricing information. Please note that each genre has a different audience and reader expectations when it comes to pricing:

Romance E-book Pricing
From the data in the survey, PubTrack was able to use a methodology known as the van Westendorp pricing model to establish a bottom price (floor), a top price (ceiling), and a target price for the typical romance e-book. In the survey, they offered two scenarios: the first was assuming that a $9 mass-market paperback was available as well as the digital format; while the second scenario assumed that the e-book was the only available option. The results were as follows:

Too expensive
$10.90 (If a $9 paperback is available)
$11.73 (Only e-book is available)

High price, but still reasonable
$8.33 (If a $9 paperback is available)
$8.57 (Only e-book is available)

Fairest price
$5.90 (If a $9 paperback is available)
$6.13 (Only e-book is available)

Floor price (would question quality)
$2.55 (If a $9 paperback is available)
$2.66 (Only e-book is available)

Dean Wesley Smith also had a pricing blog post (The New World of Publishing: Pricing Indie Books…Some 2012 Thoughts) not long ago, detailing his new pricing tier. It makes for interesting reading, as do the comments section where there are other great observations and experience details on the subject.

Time to rethink the pricing, don’t you think? The discounted prices of Amazon’s 47North line come in rather close to the RWA survey.  Sure, bargain-basement pricing has worked for some, but for many others it is not working like it once did. We, as writers, think different than readers. Most who buy our work are not writers. It’s readers who are our ultimate customers and buyers.

Think long and hard over the $.99 and $2.99 price points unless it is a part of focused and well-planned promotion or marketing blitz. Notice Amazon still has a higher list price on the novels. There is a reason for that. They have a higher regular place and the deep discounts may not last long.

I know I’m going to get push-back on this post and the couple paragraphs above, along with several people talking about “but I have no name, I must price low.” Go hence forth to Kris Kathryn Rusch’s latest article “Audience” and see her thoughts about the matter. Oh, and also New York Times bestselling author Tracy Hickman.  Because you are ‘not known’ is not a valid argument. It is insecurities (Oh boy, watch the comment section now…).

The industry is in flux. There’s no doubt about that. It’s important to keep an eye on trends, to continually educate yourself, and try to do better not only in the business, but also with the craft. Complacency or gut feelings can be dangerous to longevity.

Write good books. Present them well with a good cover, title, and blurb. To add to the mix, we now have new information coming in concerning pricing points. Do your own research for your own genre or sub-genre. Pay attention to all of it.

And then, based on knowledge and not insecurities and emotion, make wise decisions.


J.A. Marlow

A planet-wide conspiracy is waiting at Grandmother’s house…

“Always wear the red hood and cape while you are in the forest,” Grandma admonished.

For a teen with purple and red hair, and an attitude to match, the small claustrophobic city of Oburos grows ever smaller with Uncle Travis’s attempts to take over her and her mother’s life.

An invitation to visit Grandmother’s house, nestled among the giant trees filling the planet, gives Kate a welcome respite. But, there is no time for rest. A conspiracy among the forest inhabitants, moving trees, and other mysteries await her at Grandmother’s house.

Kate learns just how little she knew of the forests, much less its animals. To survive she must learn fast, and that includes trust and teamwork.

And just where was Grandma, anyway?

A Science Fiction 83600, 335 page (approximate) word stand-alone novel retelling of the fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood”.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

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Writerly Progress

2015 Yearly New Words
47.15%  188600 of 400000
2015 Yearly Revision Words
9.53%  38100 of 400000


Free Serial: Zerralon


Available Ebook Formats

The works of J.A. Marlow are available in a wide number of formats including DRM-Free. Below is a list of a few of the retailers the various formats can be found at.

Mobi (Kindle compatible): Amazon, Drive Thru Scifi, Omnilit/All Romance Ebooks, Smashwords, Xinxii

Epub (Nook compatible): Barnes & Noble, Drive Thru Scifi, Google Play, Kobo, Omnilit/All Romance Ebooks, Smashwords, Xinxii, iBookstore

PDF: Omnilit/All Romance Ebooks, Smashwords, Xinxii

Palm DOC/iSolo (Palm compatible): Smashwords

RTF (Rich Text Format): Smashwords

LRF (Older Sony Reader format): Smashwords

Plain Text: Smashwords

Online Reading (HTML): Google Play, Smashwords

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J.A. Marlow and Star Catcher Publishing is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, iTunes PHG Affiliate Program, and affiliate programs with Kobo, Smashwords, DrivethruFiction, and All Romance Ebooks. These affiliate advertising programs are designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking.