by USA Today bestselling author Julianne MacLean
Thank you for inviting me here, Julie! I am a huge fan of your work and am so grateful to you for all your generous contributions to the world of indie publishing.
As I write this blog, I am in the midst of a two-week 99 cent sale for my ebook TAKEN BY THE COWBOY, a time travel romance that I originally released with a completely different cover and title last June. At this moment in time, the book is ranked at 172, and I’d like to share how I reached this position.
First Let’s Talk About the Packaging
I am a traditionally published author of historical romance, and I have been building a loyal readership over a number of years, so when I decided to self-publish a slightly quirky time travel, I wanted my readers to understand it was something different, and I also thought I might like to experiment and try to reach new readers.
I had a fun, contemporary cover designed by the fantastic Kim Killion at Hot Damn Designs, and I launched the book in June under the title THE SEXY GIRL’S GUIDE TO COWBOYS. It was unlike all of my previous covers, however, and it stuck out like a sore thumb on my website.
To make a long story short, the sales were not what I had hoped for, and I quickly realized that the majority of my long time readers were shying away from the book because it looked like chick lit. I had tossed the “cover continuity” rule out the window, changed my brand and alienated my readers, which meant I was starting from scratch to target a new and completely different readership.
I immediately re-hired Kim to design another cover that would be consistent with my brand, and I retitled the book TAKEN BY THE COWBOY (see cover at top of page). Within a week, I had the new version uploaded. I was able to keep the same ISBN number, so all links to the old book page remained the same, and Amazon was helpful enough to send emails to everyone who already bought it – to let them know there was an updated edition. Smashwords was equally helpful. If anyone unwittingly tried to buy it twice, they would be informed that they already had it.
I also rewrote the back cover blurb to make it less chick-litty. Here is the original version:
The West Was Never Wilder…
What would you do if your car spun out of control and you woke up in the Wild West of 1881?
Dressed in skinny jeans, sexy red pumps – and frustrated by a troublesome lack of cell phone reception – fitness columnist Jessica Delaney soon finds herself dodging bullets. Before the night is out, she’s thrown in jail for a murder she didn’t commit, and if things don’t seem complicated enough, the hot-looking sheriff in charge of her arrest has danger written all over him – and a sexy swagger to die for.
Jessica knows she needs to get home, but when ruggedly handsome Sheriff Truman Wade gives her a taste of the real Wild West, she begins to wonder… what’s her hurry?
The new version, which is currently on Amazon, reads more like my other books. It focuses more on the alpha male hero and the emotional intensity of a deeper romance.
Even at the same price, the ranking immediately improved when I let my readers know about the new cover, so I believe it was the right move. It was a good lesson about the importance of author branding and cover continuity, and staying loyal to your devoted readers.
The 99 Cent Price Promotion
TAKEN BY THE COWBOY was priced at 4.79 since June, and has held a steady ranking of about 5000-6000 all summer. I decided I wanted to give it another push, however, so I planned a two week 99 sale from Sept 1-15.
I booked features on two ebook “power blogs” –Daily Cheap Reads and Ereader News Today–which both command a lot of traffic. I also let the admins know that it was a “limited time only” price.
On September 1, the Daily Cheap Reads post appeared and the ranking spiked to a peak of 400, then it levelled out to 1000 a few days later.
A week later, on Friday night, September 9, Ereader News Today featured the book, and I saw another immediate spike within an hour. The ranking rose from 1000 to a peak of 139 by Saturday morning, and today (Sunday) it’s 173. I’ve sold about 700 copies since Friday night, so in my opinion, ENT definitely qualifies as a heavy artillery blog.
I must add, however, that for me, the 99 cent price point has worked best when promoting on these power blogs. I don’t get anywhere near that kind of click-through success if my book is priced over 2.99. So I think it’s worth it to drop the price for those important blog appearances if you can plan it that way–even just for a temporary promotion–in order to get your ranking up as high as possible in a short amount of time before you raise the price back to its normal level.
(Other factors that influence click-through success are the right combination of a great cover, good reviews, intriguing blurb, and a popular genre. Some genres simply do better than others.)
I suspect the higher ranking I have attained will hold steady for a while, because my book is now positioned more prominently all over the Amazon site. I’ve hit three bestseller lists during this promotion and my cover is appearing on more book pages in the “Customers who bought this item also bought…” section.
Finally, in terms of price strategy, I did not let Amazon do the discounting for me by lowering my price elsewhere. (i.e. If you lower the price at Smashwords, and it becomes cheaper at other retailers, Amazon will lower the price to match it, and you will still receive 70% royalty–even at 99 cents.) This is a good strategy if your book is priced at 99 cents permanently, or if you don’t mind it staying there for a while, because it looks attractive to customers who can see the markdown and know they are getting a discount.
But for my situation–where I wanted to blast hard and aggressively for two weeks only–I chose the 35% royalty and lowered the price myself. I took that royalty loss so that I could be in complete control about raising the price again when I wanted to. I did not want to be forced to wait for Amazon to get around to raising it, because that can sometimes take weeks.
This is important to consider if there is a chance the stars might align and you could end up hitting the Amazon Top 100 storewide list. In that case, you may want to end your sale (and strike gold) while the book is selling well. (If you’re on the Top 100 list, you can sell about 1000 books per day, and even more than that if you hit very high on the list.) If that happened to your book, it would be a shame not to be able to end your sale when you intended to.
Please leave a comment if you have questions or suggestions about great pricing and packaging strategies. I am happy to share information, and I am very thankful to all the other indie authors out there who are so generous with their knowledge.
From Julie: Thank you Julianne, for sharing this information and your valuable insights. Readers, CLICK HERE to grab your copy of Taken by the Cowboy during this 99¢ promotion, or to read the updated blurb on her product page.
Learn more about Julianne MacLean from her Website at http://www.juliannemaclean.com where you can see how much better the new cover blends with her historical romances published by St. Martin’s Press.