Saturday, June 04, 2011

Author Andy Straka

I belong to an online list (and Facebook group) called Murder Must Advertise. Recently, author Andy Straka sent a message about his experience with moving his traditionally published books into the e-world. He not only has his books in e-form, he’s been experimenting with the sales price of those books.

It was an interesting post, so I emailed and asked if I could re-post it here on Straight From Hel for those of you who aren’t on the MMA group. He said yes …

So, please welcome Andy Straka.

Experimenting with E-Sales

Like many previously published authors (traditional--or are we supposed to call it "legacy" now?) I've been somewhat slow to move into ebooks. I control the rights to my backlist of five titles. My books have been formatted and available on just the Amazon and the Nook since last November, but I've been busy writing, not paid much attention to them, and done no promotion whatsoever. I haven't even had time to deal with Smashwords, or whatever. I've been selling an average of twenty ebooks a month until the beginning of this month. (Pretty pitiful, I know, but hey, they're all found sales, as far as I'm concerned, requiring very little, if any effort.)

Since I have three new books coming soon--one novella, a new standalone thriller, and a new "Adult Fiction for Teens" edition of my first book--I decided three and a half weeks ago to try lowering the price of my five ebook titles to .99 each, just to see what happened as I begin some promotion work this summer. In looking at the numbers, I figured I had to increase my sales to 120 copies per month to match the small income I was receiving from the same books at $2.99. (Remember, these are all backlist titles. The latest book came out in Sept 2009.)

The experiment has been a success. I've sold over 400 copies in the last three weeks, and if current trends continue will easily eclipse 500 copies for the month. A number of these titles sold in excess of 10,000 copies when they were first released years ago, but to have them find new life as ebooks is especially gratifying. I can't wait to see how things develop as my new books are released over the course of the next few months. Not sure if I'll keep these backlist books at .99 or not. (I'd appreciate opinions on that.)

 Thank you Andy.

Publisher's Weekly has featured Andy Straka as one of a new crop of "rising stars in crime fiction." His books include A WITNESS ABOVE (Anthony, Agatha, and Shamus Award finalist), A KILLING SKY (Anthony Award Finalist), COLD QUARRY (Shamus Award Winner), KITTY HITTER (called a "great read" by Library Journal), and RECORD OF WRONGS, hailed by Mystery Scene magazine as "a first-rate thriller.


  1. I'm all in favour of cheaper books but I maintain that lower prices don't make people read more so either the total amount of money going into the writers/editors/publishers/agents pool is going to be much smaller or you may just see people "hoarding" more ebooks that they'll never get round to reading.

    BTW I love these real world stories about numbers behind the books.

  2. Hi Anton. I do think lower prices make people buy books they might not otherwise. I also think eReaders have led to more reading. The only direct insight I have is my husband who has an iPad. He reads way more than he used to. It's so easy for him to find the books, purchase the books, and read the books now. He doesn't look so much at price as he looks at authors. He has multiple series he follows, but he's open to new authors that I suggest or he finds.

  3. Interesting! My books are all $2.99 or less, and I've been surprised by the amount of sales they've generated.

    Another big surprise is the huge increase of views on my YA series' book trailer. Not sure which spurred the other, but I'm sure they are connected.

  4. Helen, I have a Nook and would definitely agree that having an eReader leads to more reading. It's easier to search out books, genres, subjects than it is in a library or bookstore and I've definitely come across several books I'd never have read without an eReader. And kudos to Straka for his backlist efforts. I love reading stories like this.

  5. I am clearly not in the same league as Andy, but it is very interesting to find a bit more about the numbers game with e-books. Thank you both.

  6. I feel like nowadays authors are more involved in or aware of things like sales and how pricing affects sales. I'm very appreciative of authors who share what they've learned. It seems to me that authors have to do and know so much more than in the past.

  7. I prefer books in print and find the only time I buy ebooks is when they're a really good deal like that, so I do think a cheaper price can drive ebook sales.

  8. Bermudaonion, I'm reading my first e-book. I don't have an e-reader, but I downloaded the Kindle App and have been reading it on my computer. I'd rather have an e-reader since my days are already consumed by computer work, but it's given me a chance to see what it would be like. I need to see if it has a go-to feature. This book had a list of characters in the beginning and several times I wanted to go back to check on a character, but it was hard enough just to remember not to try to scroll forward or backward as I might do with a document. Just a teeny scroll would take me pages and pages away from where I was reading.

  9. The whole matter of pricing & e-books feels like the great unknown to me. I have yet to figure out what works, but I'm not alone in that. It's all so relatively new that everyone is sort of winging it... trial & error. But I do worry about devaluing content and hard work...

  10. I like hearing of real experiences of authors taking the plunge and going it on their own. Good luck to Andy.

  11. Like Karen stated, I'm not in the same league either, so I'm sure name recognition helps his sales as well. Guess I need to look for those 99 cent books, because I've only downloaded one so far. (And I've purchased a lot!)

  12. I'm a neophyte at this too, but it seems that authors feel they can lower the price of their books without devaluing the worth of the book because they, the authors, get more based on the percentage, which is higher than what you'd get if you were traditionally published. So, even though the price is lower, they make a higher percentage which means more money in the long run because their sales go up because the book is priced lower.

    I'm hoping that made sense.

  13. I found Andy's comments interesting. I've been watching how all this plays out.

    I have to say, having an e-reader has increased my book buying and willingness to look at new authors who's books are priced low. I hesitate to spend $7.99 on an ebook if I don't know the author.

    Like I said, I've found so many new authors since I've had my kindle. I like the way publishers like Sourcebooks, run $1.99 or .99 specials. Gives me a chance to read some of the back list of authors and if like them I'll slap down $7.99 for the latest. It's a good marketing ploy.

    Thanks for sharing Andy's thoughts, Helen.

    Sia McKye's Thoughts...OVER COFFEE

  14. I'm not one to buy a book just because its 99 cents. I'll pay extra for a good read. But it seems other people are enticed by 99 cents. Something to consider for a marketing blitz. Thanks! And thanks for the link for the review of Breakthrough!

  15. Well, this is one of those posts that, as my dad used to say, 'puts the slop down where the hogs can get at it.' As a neophyte indie author I can barely understand how anything works, especially pricing e-books. I set my the prices of mine at 5.99 ... and the amount of sales I've experienced have been ... mmmm ... let's just say that 20 sales a month would be a 98% increase. One thing that I'm unclear about is how the pricing of e-books affects the printed books ... or are print books so dead that I should just hold a quick service and put all my attention on ebooks?

  16. The evidence continues to roll in. Guess a lot of us our going to have to change our old school ways of looking at things.

    Tossing It Out

  17. Fascinating. Thank you, and thank you for reposting this.

  18. Christopher, I don't think print books are dead, but their sales figures are going down (unless you're one of the big stars) and ebook sales are going up.

    Don't know about you, Arlee, but I find it difficult not just to change but to keep up with how rapidly things are changing.

    Sia, my husband will pay a larger price for the authors he follows.


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