Tuesday, December 20, 2011

pricing ebooks--conflicting advice

Pricing of ebooks seems like a tricky proposition.  Amazon encourages pricing ebooks at a certain level by offering higher royalty rates on ebooks prices between $2.99 and $9.99.  They pay 70% royalty on such ebooks, whereas ebooks between $0.99 and $2.98 only earn an author 35%.  This ends up being a lot less money earned.

But of course, the question is: will a cheaper ebook sell a lot more copies, and thus even out the price differential, while at the same time reaching a broader audience (and increasing future sales of future books)?

I've read lots of conflicting advice and opinions on this one.  There was a great article in the Wall Street Journal about author Darcie Chan and the success she's had publishing the her ebook, The Mill River Recluse.  In the article,

She noticed that a lot of popular e-books were priced at 99 cents, and immediately dropped her price from $2.99 to 99 cents. The cut would slash potential royalties—Amazon pays 35% royalties for books that cost less than $2.99, compared with 70% for books that cost $2.99 to $9.99. But sales picked up immediately. "I did that to encourage people to give it a chance," she says. "I saw it as an investment in my future as a writer." The strategy worked. Several reviewers on Amazon said they bought the book because it was 99 cents, then ended up liking it.

She took some other interesting and smart marketing steps for her book (some of which I might try), and also got some positive mentions on web sites that helped her start to sell a lot more books.  Sales started to grow fast.  So far she's sold more than 400,000 copies, earning more than $130,000.

Sounds nice.  My sales of Tornado Siren have not been quite that strong.  Not even close.  (Yet.) (Says the perpetual optimist.)  And sales have actually dipped quite a bit since the end of the summer, and now they're getting very, very slow.  (I've seen NO holiday season boost.)

Hm.  So, I wonder, should I lower my price to see if that will help boost sales?  It's been at $2.99, but is that making it hard to attract readers who have never heard of me?

And then I read this post on Joe Konrath's blog, a guest post by Elle Lothlorien, who writes about the opposite effect.  She found that raising her price on her ebook, Sleeping Beauty, from $2.99 to $5.99, helped boost sales, and made her a lot more money at the same time.  Her theory being that people don't value things that they don't have to pay as much for--so you enjoy your expensive cup of coffee from Starbucks partly because you paid more for it.  
For authors with one book, it’s worth considering creating “imputed value” first with higher pricing. With a decent novel, this will “prime the pump” with positive reviews from readers who are invested and who want to like your book. This in turn will lead to more sales.

I'm not exactly sure what to do.  The nice thing, though, about ebooks is that it's pretty easy to change the price.  I've been reluctant to do so, but it feels like I should try something.  So I'm going to experiment a little.  I'm going to try lowering the price to $0.99 for a month, and then try raising it to something above $2.99, maybe $4.99, and see what happens.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Measuring Matthew film

Back in October, I was on set for a short film being made of one of my ten-minute plays, Measuring Matthew.  The film is directed by Boston filmmaker Gul Moonis and produced byJeanne Shapiro and Shemoon Films, with the intention of sending it various festivals and competitions around the country early next year.  So who knows, it might be coming to a theatre near you someday.  (And certainly will be available on the Internet.)

The whole thing happened purely by luck.  Gul stumbled across my web site and started reading some of my script samples (Sure am glad I finally added them).  Several caught her interest and we had lunch.  In no time, I was adapting Measuring Matthew for the screen.  The stage version is published by Brooklyn Publishers, and has been produced by small theatres and schools across the country.

When I showed up for my two days on set (they shot for five days total), I was brought back to my college days, when I was making lots of short films and was certain that I was destined for a career as a screenwriter.  (Hey, I did eventually get one optioned by Hollywood.)  Except this crew was a lot more experienced and a lot bigger than anything we ever put together.  There were twenty people on set working to turn this into a film worth watching.  I did my fair share of standing around watching people work, but I also got to act as security guard, stand in for corpse, sherpa, and grip.

Back in the day, we shot everything on actual film, either 8mm or 16mm.  Measuring Matthew will be in HD video, shot on a camera that looked like a regular old SLR camera, but was a lot more powerful.  We had a great cast, including actor Nael Nacer, with whom I've worked before and whose work on stage I've always admired.  The two lead actresses, Renee Donlon and Audrey Claire Johnson, are talented young women I think you'll see often in the Boston film scene.

I was reminded how much the process of producing a film differs from producing a stage play.  There's a lot more control over the final product of a film, but the process can sometimes be tedious for the people involved--there's so much waiting involved.  (I happen to love the initial writing process for films--they may be the most fun of all scripts to write.)  For theatre, half the fun is in the process, and sometimes the process of putting the play on stage is more fun and fully engaging for the people doing it than for the audience.  For me, I'm grateful that 2011 has had me working on books, stage plays, films, and radio plays. 

Now Measuring Matthew is being edited.  I can't wait to see how it all comes together.  I'll paste some photos from the shoot below.  And the film has its own Facebook page, where you can lots more photos and links to interviews with the cast and crew, and find updates on how it's coming along.  And the DP, Chris Portal, has a nice post with lots of photos, too.

Lots of people crammed into a small balcony, for a ledge scene six flights up.

 Inside a very nice apartment we borrowed, all for some very quick shots that might take up all of about 10-30 seconds on screen, by the time it's done.

This an exterior shot that goes with the balcony scene.  The character is out on a ledge, way up high, but the magic of movie editing allowed us to shoot part of it only a few feet off the ground.  This was my first day on set, with nice and warm weather.  We shot at this location again a few weeks later, and it was cold and damp.

And this is me on the final night of shooting.  Talk about super long day--we were on set by 7:30 am, and worked until midnight.  I was acting as a stand-in for a character who gets run over by a car, so I had to lie on the cold ground while they got the lighting right.  Ah, the glamorous life!  At least I got to wear a coat and gloves--the actor who was in the shot had to be on the ground just in plain street clothes.  He was tough.

That's about it.  I'll let you know when the actual film is ready to be seen.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Q&A at Urban Paranormal

Deva has posted a nice Q&A with me about Tornado Siren over at The Urban Paranormal Blog.  (Thanks!)  Check it out.  I met her through GoodReads, where they have just about every kind of book group you can imagine.  Deva runs a GoodReads group that specializes in reading and discussing Interracial and African American Paranormal fiction.  I think there's a group on the site for just about any kind of book you might write.  There are probably more GoodReads groups that would be suitable for reading and discussing Tornado Siren that I haven't even discovered yet.  (Deva found me, rather than me finding her.)