Category Archives: Kobo

A matter of Price and Death

What you charge for your ebook is a hot topic, a hot potato and a headache all in one.

And its a matter that I don’t take lightly. Throughout the last 6 months, I’ve read many authors’ and bloggers’ thoughts as I’ve gone through the process of making William’s work available in ebook form.

Pegasus Falling has been available at several price points since its launch in March. I launched it at a fairly respectable (in my then opinion) £1.49 / $1.99. Although this didn’t qualify it for the 70% royalty on the US price, it did represent (again, in my opinion), a good introductory price for those who would be interested in reading it.

However, as I read more into it, it looked like I might have been too eager, and evidence was pointing towards new authors having to price their work at rock bottom to start sales going. On the back of a story published in the Guardian back in February, I dropped the price to the minimum permissible on KDP – £0.75 / $0.99.

Sales started to pick up. This is without doubt partly down to us receiving some very positive reviews from early readers on Amazon and the intrepid and generous bloggers who have taken a punt on an unknown author. But it did appear that if people were seeking the book out, the low price was leading to an on-the-spot sale. After all, it’s less than a quid – where could you go wrong?

Then, as sales started to go slowly but surely upwards,  I started reading around again, and was worried that I was doing the novel an injustice by charging the bare minimum…

This interesting post from Catherine Ryan Howard helped seal my decision. Her argument seemed to ring true with what others were saying around the net – that you should try and price your work at a point where it is simultaneously a bargain and expensive enough not to look suspect. I could see the logic behind thinking that readers would be put off by a price that was too low – after all, you tend to get what you pay for, don’t you? And with me thinking it would be nice to earn 70% of £1.79 (£1.21) rather than 30% of £0.75 (£0.26) with each sale, and confident that sales figures would continue to rise and rise on the back of more and more positive reviews, so I made the changes.

I upped the price to £1.79 and $2.99 on all platforms. And, to be fair, sales continued for a week – albeit with Amazon discounting the book to start with, because they had been quicker to apply the new price, so were still price matching the dawdling Smashwords and Kobo.

But then, the worst thing possible happened. Sales slowed to a barely noticeable trickle. Despite the fact that more positive reviews continued to be posted, with each one, the anticipated flurry of sales failed to materialise. It was more like an occasional drip than a flurry – a lone snow flake blowing in the wind, not the blizzard I had been sure would happen.

So what went wrong? I had priced the book at a reasonable, yet still bargain basement price. But sales made for the opposite direction to where I’d hoped.

It took a while for it to sink in, but after arguably our best and most widely read review yet lead to one of the most lacklustre sales weeks we’ve had so far, I had to come to the conclusion that something was wrong with the price.

Promoting your book is all about making people care about it – they have to want to pick it up and read it. Reviews are one way of getting it seen, and Pegasus Falling has had universally good or excellent reviews. But, as I’ve discovered, that’s not enough to get people to reach into their virtual pockets and pay good money to read it.

The fact is that many people must have had a good look at Pegasus Falling online, but decided that $2.99 is still too much to fork out, seeing as they’ve never heard of the book before and besides, there are other books by other unknown writers out there which are being given away for free, or close to free. That barrier that goes up in a large proportion (whether its a majority or not, I still don’t know) of the reading population when they see a self-published book (or suspect it is) stops a lot of potential buyers from clicking “Add to cart”.

And after all, The Bridge aside, there are no other works of William’s available…for now. Until It Never Was You is released later in the year, he will remain a completely unknown author of only one major work, and people are wary of trying out anything new. 

Although the argument that a higher price will give your book more kudos amongst the reading public might be a very attractive one, I think it is flawed – certainly for the little or unknown author just starting out. Yes, I believe that Pegasus Falling is well worth the $2.99 price tag, but I can’t get passed the fact that at that price, it has sold nowhere near the numbers it has at $0.99.

And at the end of the day, it’s sales that matter at this stage. The more people read the book, the better. We have to make some money from the venture – bills need paying, after all, and yes, the royalties are far lower per unit at this price point – it takes almost five sales at $0.99 to make the same royalty as it does one sale at $2.99. But if your sales increase 10-fold, you win in two ways…you make more money, and more people read your books. 

So, the decision has been made to reduce the price back down to its minimum and the ebook is available on all platforms for £0.79 / £0.99. Whether it’ll be permanent or not, I don’t know, but it will be interesting to see if sales pick up and grow again.

One thing I’d say to other novice self-publishers is this. Although you know your book is amazing and people will love it when they read it, the general public don’t know that yet, and even if it tickles their fancy, they may not want to pay good money on an unknown quantity. Don’t run before you can walk. Although you know in your heart that your book is worth more, price it at a point which makes the most sales. Experiment, by all means – you may be luckier, and find that you can get away with a higher price – but don’t be scared to bring the price down again.

I’d be interested to hear what other authors / publishers experiences have been.


EDIT (4th September 2012): Well, since first writing this post, we’ve had another lacklustre month of sales. Perhaps it was the small matter of the world being distracted by elite sportsmen and women doing what they do best, or the fact that people just don’t buy books over the summer because they’re on the beach reading the ones they’ve already bought, but reducing the price to £0.99 made no difference at all.

And in the mean time, I’ve been talking to other indie authors about the subject. It seems there is no easy answer, but the $0.99 price point is no longer the silver bullet it once was. It’s too low for the book for serious readers to be take it seriously, and too high for those readers only after freebies to consider.

So once again, the price has changed. It’s back at $2.99 / £1.79. With Saturday’s exciting news that Pegasus Falling has been named a finalist in the Kindle Book Review’s Best Indie Books of 2012 contest, the accolades are starting to roll in, and I have to set the price at a point that matches the excellent response its getting from those who do read it.

Pegasus Falling is a serious book for serious readers and I feel that I have to stand by its quality. Others are, so why shouldn’t I?

Pegasus Falling is available now from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Kobo & Smashwords

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The Undiscovered Documents

A few months ago, just after Pegasus Falling had been released, my nan (William’s wife, Sheila) thrust a small, unassuming plastic envelope in my hands, proclaiming that she’d found it in amongst an old pile of Gramps’ stuff. In it were three very interesting items.

Firstly, there was a short, typed memo from Gramps to ‘Kate’. This is my mum – her real name isn’t Kate, but her initials are K.T, so Kate for short. Dated 2.10.92 (for my American readers, that’s October 2nd, not February 10th!), it introduced a short story hot off his new word processor.

Gramps retired in 1990. He soon became bored with the life of a pensioner and decided to set himself the challenge of writing a book. He called his first work simply ‘Opus 1’. I had read it back in 1992 (at the grand age of 13) but had not laid eyes on it again until now. Set in a part-Courier typewriter / part-computer system typeface, the manuscript ran to just 20 pages, loose leaf and unformatted. It was just as he had written it, un-fettered and undisturbed for many years. 


The third piece in the plastic envelope was a much larger loose leaf document – a synopsis and abstract from The Cypress Branches, the document William had sent to publishers on his brief attempt to publish.  


All three are fascinating items in themselves. I wish I had seen the synopsis and abstract years ago, when I first set out to edit the books. Although written for a different purpose, it provides an insight into how William saw the novel work. Thankfully, it looks like my changes work within the context of his vision, but a lot of difficult decisions would have been made easier with this document to hand. 


The memo is poignant, to say the least. Although it is a simple note, its style is as efficient as William’s prose, declaring that “I’m still feeling my way with this” and that he had to “exploit a direct experience”, asking for, “some objective comments please”. 


Opus 1 itself is a revelation. The memo goes on to say, “of course there is some artistic licence and more than a suspicion of hyperbole, but the tale is in general, true.” As with his subsequent work, William drew on many and varied incidents from his own life and weaved them together into a gripping and heartbreaking work of fiction. It is the story of a romance between a British Parachute Regiment sergeant and a Dutch girl whose house is taken over by the army and turned in to their HQ for the ensuing battle to secure the bridge. William was a paratrooper, and at the age of 18, was involved in the ill-fated operation to capture the bridge at Oosterbeek, near Arnhem in Holland – the fabled Operation Market Garden which ended so badly for the troops involved. William was one of the lucky few who managed to escape back home and tell the tale. Many of his friends were not so fortunate. 

Although Opus 1 was initially written as a standalone work, elements of it ended up becoming part of William’s much larger work, The Cypress Branches, which he started to write almost immediately after completing his first short story. Although it underwent a considerable amount of editing and the story was changed to integrate it into the longer storyline, some readers will recognise it as forming the basis of the first chapter of Pegasus Falling – part 1 of the Cypress Branches trilogy. They’ll also recognise the sergeant, the main character in Opus 1 who plays a smaller role in the story of Pegasus Falling

Opus 1 is a fantastic introduction to William’s work – it reflects his style and the characters are just as well-written as those in The Cypress Branches. So, I have built it into a stand alone ebook and it is now available to download for free from Smashwords, Kobo Books and acuteanglebooks.co.uk. Despite its quality, Opus 1 was never, to my knowledge, meant for publication, so William never gave it a proper title. I have named it “The Bridge” – which seemed simple, fitting and appropriate. 


You can download a copy of The Bridge from any of the following links: 
The Bridge on acuteanglebooks.co.uk (FREE downloads for epub, .mobi and PDF)
The Bridge on Amazon (77p / 99c – but hopefully they will price match soon)

Are Kobo finally taking on Amazon at their own game?

Much has been said about Amazon and how their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform has allowed so many more authors to publish their works with ease, and the positives and negatives that have ensued.

I myself, having used KDP to publish Pegasus Falling, have been very happy with the results. I didn’t use KDP select at the time of launch because I didn’t want to restrict sales to just Amazon (although I’m not ruling it out for the launch of part 2 of the trilogy).  My philosophy has always been to get William’s books in front of as wide an audience as possible, so instead I launched it on as many platforms as possible, mostly through the Smashwords premium catalogue, and also via Kobo.
I set up an account with Kobo books to distribute the ebook to them directly (you can also go via Smashwords). At the time, the sign up process wasn’t exactly arduous, but it was much more long-winded than Amazon and KDP. Instead of a few web pages in which to add all the metadata and upload the files, there were application forms, spreadsheets and FTP servers to contend with. Like I said, not arduous, but it all felt a bit steam-powered compared with Amazon’s whiz-bang offering. Nevertheless, I got through the process and Pegasus Falling is now available to buy on kobobooks.com, as well as whsmith.co.uk. But I couldn’t help but think that the journey could have been made a bit easier, and I’m not surprised that so many writers just use KDP and don’t bother with other platforms. It’s just so ridiculously easy!
And that’s a shame, because I’m all for choice – not everyone has a Kindle, so why should I just release the books for one platform? Sales are much lower than on Amazon, but they’re sales none the less.
This is why I was very excited to receive an email from Kobo yesterday announcing the imminent launch of their new Kobo Writing Life publishing platform. Currently in Beta testing, it’s due for release at the end of June and I’ll be very interested to try it out when the time comes.
You can read more about plans for the platform in this article from publishersweekly.combut here are the highlights which interest me the most:
1. An easy to use self-service portal which will provide writers with, “a variety of marketing and sales tools and help connect them to readers”. If it’s as easy to use as KDP, then hurrah! The extra bits on the side will only be a bonus.
2. Use of the open-platform epub standard. This is already the case with Kobo, but I welcome the commitment to keep things open and allow the use of books on multiple devices.
3. Automatic conversion from Word, Text or Mobi files. Although personally I prefer to do the conversions myself (you have a lot more control over the finished product), this will be a welcome benefit for a lot of authors who are not so tech-savvy.
4. Sales tracking dashboard. At the moment, Kobo provides authors with an Excel spreadsheet every month, which can be a bit of a handful to navigate. This sounds a lot more user-friendly, and possibly more in depth than Amazon’s offering, although theirs isn’t exactly bad.
5. Non-binding agreement. Now this sounds like the most refreshing aspect of Kobo’s proposal – you can publish your book at Kobo, then sell it anywhere you like without any ties, even taking the epub file with you!
6. Free pricing option. Authors will be allowed to set their own price, with no restrictions, and can even price their work for free.
This all sounds extremely promising and I can see the bods at Amazon may have some head scratching to do. The truth is, though, that Kobo are still a very small fish compared to the great white shark that is Amazon, and they have a lot of catching up to do to keep up with their competitors, but I wish them all the luck with it. I really do hope that Writing Life is a success. After all, choice is good, and some serious competition in the market may just make the self-publishing world that little bit more interesting. 

Pegasus Falling has landed!

This post was originally published on acuteanglebooks.co.uk on 26th March 2012

A newsletter was sent to the mailing list this morning to announce the launch of Pegasus Falling. Here’s what was sent. To join the mailing list, send a message to contactusATacuteanglebooksDOTcoDOTuk.

Dear Friends and Family,

Launch day has finally arrived and Pegasus Falling is now available as a paperback and ebook. Yesterday, we held a small party at the care home where William is now resident, so that the man himself could be included in the celebrations. A massive thank you to those involved in putting the day together and to everyone who attended for giving the book a brilliant launch. Pictures of the day can be found on the website here.

We plan to make Pegasus Falling available as widely as possible and you have a plethora of options for where to buy it. And if you haven’t made up your mind whether to buy it yet or not, you can download samples from both the paperback on the acuteanglebooks website and the ebook at Smashwords (follow the links below).

PAPERBACK – £8.99
The paperback is available now to buy online from www.acuteanglebooks.co.uk/pegasusfalling and if you order before 30th April 2012, you’ll get the ebook as well for free.

It can be ordered from Amazon and Waterstones.

It is also available to buy through the Facebook page – www.facebook.com/pegasusfalling.

We’ll be approaching high street retailers over the coming weeks, including big chains and local bookshops, to see if they’d like to stock the book. In the mean time, if you’d like to buy from your local shop, they can order it from their wholesaler by quoting the ISBN number – 978-0-9562299-1-5.

EBOOK – from £1.53
Pegasus Falling is also available as an ebook. This is a very exciting prospect as the e-reader phenomenon takes hold. We’ve priced the book very competitively and will cost as little as £1.53 in the UK, EUR2.60 in Europe and $2.40 in the US (depending on the addition of VAT).

Kindle – download at the Amazon Kindle store in the UK, US, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

Smashwords – head to www.smashwords.com to download the book in a range of formats which are suitable for any reading device or for reading on your computer. It’s an American site, so prices are in US$, but you can buy from anywhere in the world using PayPal (they’ll do the currency conversion for you). It’s a great site in itself with a huge range of interesting and unusual ebooks published independently.

The ebook will be made available through other ebook retailers in the coming weeks, including the Apple iBook store on iTunes and Kobo. Keep checking and it should appear shortly!

WE NEED YOUR REVIEWS!
We’re now about to plug the book for all its worth to generate interest and excitement. We’ll start with the local press and social networking sites and work our way up to the national press over the coming weeks and months.

But there’s nothing like word of mouth to get the buzz started, and there are a number of ways you can join in and help us spread the word. If you can do any of the following, we’d be incredibly grateful!

Like the facebook page – Next time you’re on Facebook, have a look at the Pegasus Falling page. Clicking “Like” will not only show all of our updates in your newsfeed, but also help us spread the word around Facebook. The more likes we have, the better our chances of success. Feel free to join in and leave comments and messages on the page.

Leave a comment – use the comments box at the bottom of the page in the shop to tell us (and your friends!) what you think of the book.

Follow us on Twitter – follow @cypressbranches for updates and use #PegasusFalling to talk about the book. We’re getting followers from all over the world, which is fantastic.

Rate us on Smashwords – leave your star rating and help us raise the book’s profile on the site.

Tell your friends – if you’ve enjoyed the book, let your friends know!

Tell us – email contactusATacuteanglebooksDOTcoDOTuk to let us know your thoughts. Please mark your email “Not for publication” if you’d prefer your comments not to be used in our publicity.

Once again, a massive thank you to everyone who’s bought a book (or plans to) and for all the support we’ve been given over the last few years.

Happy reading!

Mike Harris
acuteANGLE books