Digital Strategy in Historical Romance


If you think that a publisher’s main job is distribution, and that distribution is a button press on the internet, you’re wrong, and I hope to demonstrate that today with some vague (yet convincing!) handwaving.

I don’t intend this post to be one about the merits of self-publishing versus traditional publishing, but instead to be about the merits of having a digital strategy versus not having a digital strategy.

A little over a month ago, Publisher’s Weekly released a list of the bestselling ebooks of 2012. They used words like “jaw-dropping” to describe the numbers that are being racked up. I thought there was something jaw-dropping about that list, especially when you perused the historical romance offerings, and it wasn’t the numbers on the list.

I went through and I pulled out all the numbers for historical romance authors. I did that because that’s my genre. It’s not the hottest romance genre at the moment, so there aren’t a lot of authors racking up numbers in it, but it does sell steadily and respectably. Here’s handwaving, part I: I had to rely on my own name/title recognition to determine if a title was a historical romance, and I’m not perfect; and also, these numbers are self-reported by the publishers, so there may be errors or titles that were not included. Nonetheless, I did see representation on the list overall for all the romance houses (with the exception of Kensington), so my assumption going in is that this is a pretty decent list of NY-published books.

Here are the historical romances I pulled out, with digital sales numbers attached.

A Night Like This, Julia Quinn (Avon) 66,192
The Ugly Duchess, Eloisa James (Avon) 59,333
The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae, Stephanie Laurens (Avon) 55,093
The Duke is Mine, Eloisa James (Avon) 47,983
Sins of a Wicked Duke, Sophie Jordan (Avon) 46,687
A Week to be Wicked, Tessa Dare (Avon) 44,792
A Rogue by any Other Name, Sarah Maclean (Avon) 44,380
A Kiss at Midnight, Eloisa James (Avon) 42,624
Winning the Wallflower, Eloisa James (Avon Impulse) 40,954
Never Seduce a Scot, Maya Banks (Ballantine) ~38,600
Seduced by a Pirate, Eloisa James (Avon Impulse) 34,516
A Lady Never Surrenders, Sabrina Jeffries (Pocket) 34,290
The Seduction of Sebastian Trantor, Stephanie Laurens (Avon Impulse) 31,027
Never Love a Highlander, Maya Banks (Ballantine) ~30,200
The Lady Risks All, Stephanie Laurens (Avon) 29,100
Seduction of a Highlander, Maya Banks (Ballantine) ~28,400
The Fall of Rogue Gerrard, Stephanie Laurens (Avon Impulse) 26,466
How the Marquess was Won, Julie Anne Long (Avon) 25,980
The Duke and I, Julia Quinn (Avon) 25,640
Devil’s Bride, Stephanie Laurens (Avon) 25,229

I bolded the outliers so you could see the pattern.

Avon has always been a force to be reckoned with in historical romance, so maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but cripes, that’s just embarrassing. Pocket has one book on the list. Ballantine has three, but they’re all from the same author (and she’s a massive force to be reckoned with–her non-historical romances sold even better). And there are imprints that are simply not registering on the historical romance radar–St. Martins, Berkeley, HQN, Mira, Grand Central.

Has it always been like this? To find out, I performed Handwaving part II. Which is to say, I went through USA Today’s top 100 list (Why the top 100? Because I’m too lazy to do 150) from February 2010 to August 2010–that is, in the times when digital was selling in much smaller amounts–and made a list of all the historical romances that hit the list at that level. Again, this relies on my ability to recognize historical romances when I see them, so there’s the potential for human error.

Here’s that list (no particular order, since I don’t know what being #18 on the list in one week means in comparison with being #13 in another week):

The Truth About Lord Stoneville, Sabrina Jeffries, Pocket
The Elusive Bride, Stephanie Laurens, Avon
Taming the Highland Bride, Lynsay Sands, Avon
Ravishing in Red, Madeline Hunter, Jove
Nicole Jordan, To Tame a Dangerous Lord, Ballantine
Dark Angel & Lord Carew’s Bride, Mary Balogh, Dell
The Hellion and the Highlander, Lynsay Sands, Avon
Provocative in Pearls, Madeline Hunter, Jove
The Marriage Ring, Cathy Maxwell, Avon
An Impossible Attraction, Brenda Joyce, HQN
In Bed with the Duke, Christina Dodd, Signet
Monica McCarty, The Chief, Ballantine
Amanda Quick, The Perfect Poison, Jove
Victoria Alexander, Desires of a Perfect Lady, Avon
Sarah MacLean, Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, Avon
The Secret Duke, Jo Beverly, Signet
Johanna Lindsey, Rogue of my Own, Pocket
Seducing an Angel, Mary Balogh, Dell
Rule’s Bride, Kat Martin, Mira
A Lady’s Guide to Improper Behavior, Suzanne Enoch, Avon
Never Less Than a Lady, Mary Jo Putney, Zebra
A Lady Never Tells Lies, Candace Camp, Pocket
Hannah Howell, Kentucky Bride, Zebra
A Secret Affair, Mary Balogh, Dell
Married by Morning, Lisa Kleypas, St. Martins
Ten Things I Love About You, Julia Quinn, Avon
A Gentleman Always Remembers, Candace Camp, Pocket Star
If He’s Wild, Hannah Howell, Zebra
Johanna Lindsey, That Perfect Someone, Gallery
Jane Feather, Rushed to the Alter, Pocket
Lisa Kleypas, Love in the Afternoon, St. Martins
Stephanie Laurens, The Brazen Bride, Avon
My Dangerous Duke, Gaelen Foley, Avon
Jude Deveraux, Days of Gold, Pocket Star
Eloisa James, A Kiss at Midnight, Avon
Loretta Chase, Last Night’s Scandal, Avon

Avon was still doing well in 2010–they have 33% of the historical romances on the list–but two years ago, they weren’t ridiculously dominant. Now, like I said, this is handwaving. So ignore the 33% number–numbers here are vague notions, and highly error prone. Let’s just concentrate on the general trend.

Which is that Avon is kicking everyone’s ass today, and they weren’t two years ago.

So…what on earth is going on? Here are a few obvious things to consider.

The top authors on the list of digital bestsellers are Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Stephanie Laurens. All three of those authors have books on that list of bestselling digital titles of 2012 that were not published in 2012. Specifically, Julia Quinn has “The Duke and I,” which is the first book in her Bridgerton series. Eloisa James has “A Kiss at Midnight,” the first book in her Fairy Tales series on the list. And Stephanie Laurens has “Devil’s Bride” on the list, which is the start of her Cynster series. In other words, Avon is not just trying to push the author’s latest release–they’re pushing the author’s latest release by bringing in new readers with older books that are tried and true.

Both Eloisa James and Stephanie Laurens have multiple Avon Impulse titles on the list–novellas that came in at low price points and allowed readers to try a new author at a low price and a lower investment of time. I didn’t see low-priced novellas from other houses until near the end of 2012, and by that time, the 99 cent novella was so commonplace that it wasn’t selling in significantly greater numbers than other books.

Not insignificantly, Avon was one of the few major NY houses in 2012 that was publishing historical romance and experimenting with pricing strategy.

Finally, Avon developed a method for getting the word out about changes in pricing strategy–they didn’t just drop the price and expect people to notice.

All of this comes down to one thing: if you think that all publishers do in digital is press a button for distribution… Well, for some books, it certainly looks like you’re right. But a publisher that thinks about publishing as a strategy rather than a button, a publisher that uses an author’s entire output to move books will do much, much better. Dominantly better.

When the rewards are somewhat evenly distributed among publishers in 2010 and are sharply skewed come 2012, it’s not the individual authors that are at fault.

Publishers other than Avon: What the heck are you going to do about this? Because you just got schooled, and that’s embarrassing.

As a note: I suspect that some people at those publishing houses, if they saw this, would say, “We have a digital strategy, but we just choose not to employ it for all our authors–just for the super-duper awesomely important ones, the ones that are major events, and an author who just barely nicks the New York Times List is not on our register.” That may be true, but if it is…why would any of those authors bother with you for their next contract?

As a final note: I’m aware that there are a lot of books that are not on this list that sold over the requisite amount. We’ve got nothing from Montlake, and I’m darned certain that Montlake has a handful of historical romances that have easily oversold not only the 25K mark, but the 66K mark that represents the top of the charts. We’ve got nothing from self-publishers, and I know from personal experience that there are self-published books that would land on the charts. I’m not sure Kensington or Sourcebooks reported. So these numbers are limited. Nonetheless, it’s pretty clear to me that employing a digital strategy on behalf of your authors kicks the pants off of having no apparent digital strategy.

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47 Responses to “Digital Strategy in Historical Romance”

  1. anon says:

    Please forgive the anonymous nature of my comment; I write for one of those publishers and just… yeah.

    Does it bear mentioning that all but one of the Avon authors were NYT bestsellers already? If one can discount Maya Banks’s showing, should one apply a similar disclaimed to Stephanie Laurens, who has been a steady bestseller for years, long before ebooks?

    It’s great to see a publisher finally cluing in that price matters -a lot- in digital sales, but I would be even more impressed if the results were helping ordinary midlist authors break out, too.

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  2. You’re right that I could say the same thing for Stephanie Laurens as I did for Maya Banks–and I probably should have, so that’s my bad. I didn’t mean to dismiss Maya’s success in any way, just to say that she had a crossover following from another (better selling) subgenre.

    I think the more instructive thing for me about this is the people who are not on List #1 but are perennial bestsellers. Where are Elizabeth Hoyt, Mary Balogh, Madeline Hunter, Jane Feather, Monica McCarty, Mary Jo Putney? It’s conceivable to me that one of those authors might have fallen by the wayside in the intervening years, but all of them? No.

    There are a lot of authors on list #2 who were steady bestsellers for years and who have simply vanished from the top of the digital marketplace. And for the sake of nitpickery, I count 2 authors who hadn’t hit the Times List before on the above–Tessa Dare and Julie Anne Long. And Sophie Jordan had hit the list before, but she hasn’t been an author who was perennially on it. I’m relying on memory for that, though, so I might be wrong.

    As for midlist authors, I think the question is the same as for the bestsellers. What is your publisher’s digital strategy? And if they don’t have one, why would you stick with them?

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  3. ::That may be true, but if it is…why would any of those authors bother with you for their next contract?::

    Well, yes. And, in fact, I did not, because, as you note, why would I? It was clear that my publisher had no digital strategy they were willing to apply to my books with them.

    Any author who’s self-pubbed backlist and/or has a number of front-list titles out there knows that an author’s body of work sells and cross-sells.

    It’s long been my position that publishers have been badly, badly wrong about backlist and that they’ve left millions on the table by allowing “old” MMPs to wither. The notion that genre MMP is a short shelf-life item is wrong. Publishers have made it ::seem:: true.

    They’re so divorced from readers that they have no idea at all that “old” titles had huge pent-up demand.

    The other shortcoming, to me, lies in the very notion of “imprint.” Publishers focus on the definition and sale of titles in an imprint. Convenient for them, but the danger is that readers buy authors they like. While a reader in the mood for a “light historical,” say, may well go to an imprint known for that, I believe most purchasing decisions are made at the author level. “I LOVE Julia Quinn: She’s an auto=buy.”

    The strategy needs to be double-pronged. Publishers need a way to attract readers to “type” of book, but they also need to make sure the body of work each of their authors produces is leveraged. And they’re not doing that. As you note.

    I often wonder what the data warehouse team is doing at publishers. Is there really no one slicing and dicing their data?

    Shrug.

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  4. Delle Jacobs says:

    You’re absolutely right about the importance of digital strategy, Courtney. Also right about Montlake and self-pubbed authors. I’m not at the top of Montlake sellers, but all three of my fall 2012 releases have topped well over 25,000-just not many paper books. And I have several self-pubbed books that have reached well over that in paid distribution in a year. Debra Holland reached the USA Today list with at least one of her self-pubbed western historical romances in 2012, and all three historicals were then picked up by Montlake and published. And interestingly, she just made the New York Times Best Seller list a few weeks ago, long after the books came out in 2012. So I’d say either Amazon/Montlake wasn’t asked for their numbers or, as is equally likely, they aren’t giving the numbers out, but either way, they have an excellent strategy for their books, as do most of their authors.

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  5. carrie says:

    Thanks for the Avon Love. We work very hard for our authors, and it’s nice to see the marketing/on line sales/pricing team’s hard work pay off.

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  6. Eloisa James says:

    Fascinating! Sarah Maclean is a relatively new author and I’m pretty sure hit the NYT list for the first time last year. Maybe her 4th book? So Avon did put a relatively new person quite high up on the eBook list.

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  7. Fascinating – thank you for this. I’m left with what seems to be my go-to thought about publishing/marketing these days: I don’t get it. My CPA brain can’t wrap around the concept of spending thousands of dollars to produce a product, then doing next to nothing to competitively market it where people are buying that product.

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  8. @Delle Jacobs: That’s been my experience self-publishing as well. Looking at the charts for historical romance, I suspect there are probably more self-published historical romances that have made the requisite numbers than there are traditionally-published books.

    I couldn’t prove that without gathering evidence from a bunch more people, but I have 3 books that would register on the charts–and one of them was released on December 7, 2012, so that’s more than 25,000 sales in 3.5 weeks.

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  9. @Carolyn Jewel: The only backlist books that I have are the books that are in the hands of HQN–because those are the only books that are not being used to goose my sales.

    The rest of them? Books is books is books.

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  10. Sara Lindsey says:

    This is what I noticed from the list… Avon understands that they need to match self-pub pricing to move mass quantities of e-books & hit the bestseller e-book lists (to gain visibility). I’m 99% certain that, at some point, every Avon book on that list (or almost every book) sold for a sale price of $3.99 or less. I wish other publishers would wise up…

    A Night Like This, Julia Quinn (Avon): $1.99
    The Ugly Duchess, Eloisa James (Avon): This was on sale, not sure of the price. Possibly $3.99?
    The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae, Stephanie Laurens (Avon): I think this was briefly on sale during pre-pub, but I could be wrong.
    The Duke is Mine, Eloisa James (Avon): $1.99
    Sins of a Wicked Duke, Sophie Jordan (Avon): Fairly certain this was on sale.
    A Week to be Wicked, Tessa Dare (Avon): Fairly certain this was on sale, but started at $4.99, which is still significantly lower than other publishing houses.
    A Rogue by any Other Name, Sarah Maclean (Avon): $2.99, I think. Maybe $3.99.
    A Kiss at Midnight, Eloisa James (Avon): $0.99
    Winning the Wallflower, Eloisa James (Avon Impulse): $0.99/FREE
    Seduced by a Pirate, Eloisa James (Avon Impulse): $0.99
    The Seduction of Sebastian Trantor, Stephanie Laurens (Avon Impulse): $2.99
    The Lady Risks All, Stephanie Laurens (Avon): $2.99
    The Fall of Rogue Gerrard, Stephanie Laurens (Avon Impulse): $2.99
    How the Marquess was Won, Julie Anne Long (Avon): Not sure if this was on sale, but I suspect it was.
    The Duke and I, Julia Quinn (Avon): $1.99
    Devil’s Bride, Stephanie Laurens (Avon): $0.99-$2.99

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  11. Believe me, I noticed this, too. BUT I also noticed that this list is unit sales. It would have been far more helpful to have amounts of money. If those books selling more are marked down to $3.99 (half of my price), then I’ve made the same amount of money, if not more. So perhaps full price IS part of the digital strategy, for certain authors.

    Also, I still sell at least four to five times more in print than I do in digital. If I were only in digital, would I sell more? Hard to say. There’s still quite a bit of the market out there buying print.

    It’s conceivable that some of these missing historical authors are selling large amounts in print. From what I’ve been told by publishers, they’re finding that historicals sell better in print than in digital. So this may be a bit of comparing apples and oranges.

    What I find disturbing is that historicals are so weak in digital in general (even Avon’s). The last time I went to the straight romance list on Amazon, a few weeks ago, I didn’t find ANY historical title, self-pubbed or otherwise, in the top 50 of the bestselling titles in romance. That worries me for the future of the subgenre.

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  12. Christina Pereira says:

    I bought almost all Avon historical romance ebooks last year because even new releases were 4.99 compared to 7.99 from other publishers. They just have the best deals and sales. I bought a lot of books for .99 too.

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  13. @Sabrina Jeffries:

    Both these things are right–that other authors might be selling well in print, and that lowering price lowers revenue per unit sale.

    I don’t have numbers here–and I don’t know if anyone from Avon is watching this and would be willing to chime in–but I’m fairly certain that the lead titles for JQ/EJ/SL accrued a good number of their sales at $6.99. So I suspect that they’re outselling you in digital not so much because of the digital sale price, but because Avon pushed the frontlist with backlist titles sold at 99 cents.

    But that is just a suspicion, not something I know any numbers about, and I’m willing to accept that I’m wrong on this–or that if there is a difference, it’s negligible.

    That being said, I suspect that print and higher pricing isn’t making up the difference for the $7.99 price tag for most historical romance authors. For you, absolutely. For some of the authors that didn’t make the bestselling digital list, maybe.

    For people who are at my level? I know what my print sales were for my last traditionally published book, and I’m outselling that by a ridiculous margin.

    For that reason, I tend to identify with people who are publishing-wise in the midlist, as compared to people like you, who I view with awe and respect. So I think that viewpoint colored this post, and I’m glad you’ve given me the chance to clarify.

    When I said the list was embarrassing, a part of what’s embarrassing is the lack of some big-name authors on it. But the biggest reason I find that list so embarrassing is the dearth of young/midlist/break out authors on it from houses besides Avon.

    For someone like you, who has a really strong reader base, where people see you as an autobuy author, a $7.99 price tag might make sense as part of a publisher’s digital strategy. But that digital strategy has effects that I think reach farther than just your sales alone.

    Let’s take a hypothetical midlist Pocket author. She’s newer, so she doesn’t have your strong reader base. She’s getting great reviews both online and in trade journals. There’s a fanbase, but it’s small. And yes, she may be selling 1:5 for digital:print, but that’s almost certainly because the digital version is priced terribly, not because historical romance doesn’t sell well in digital.

    Pocket has some really amazing new historical authors, and I’m embarrassed by how poorly Pocket (and Grand Central, and SMP, and Berkeley) is getting their works out there. There are authors who are at my career level in terms of length of time published and number of books out there, and at $3.99, I’m not outselling them by a factor of 1:2, but by something closer to 1:10, and that’s being charitable.

    I have no illusions about myself as an author or about how awesome some of my compatriots are in comparison. They work hard. They write extraordinary books. They market the hell out of them. The only reason that I’m selling more copies than someone else who is at my level who happened to publish with Pocket is that Pocket is pricing their books like anvils.

    So why are new authors having their books priced at $7.99, or close to it?

    If you’re pricing the new author in a vacuum, it makes no sense. If you’re a new author, your goal is to become someone’s autobuy author, but you’re never going to get there if they don’t pick up your book in the first place. Your goal as a new author is not to be the first book someone buys in any given month, but to be the second book or the third book. In digital at $7.99, that’s almost never going to happen. Pricing a new author at $7.99 makes no sense.

    Here are the only explanations I can come up with for the behavior:

    1. Publishers that price at $7.99 don’t think price will make much difference (and since I do have direct evidence of this, let me tell you straight up that they’re wrong–at $3.99, my latest title has outsold every title on the above list in digital. Of course not in print, but definitely in digital. I surely don’t have more fans).

    2. They don’t want to undercut the sales of their top authors, because if they had a book selling well at $3.99, someone might not pick up their lead author at $7.99.

    I have a strong suspicion that #2 is driving the bus here. That is a digital strategy–you’re right–and that digital strategy effectively screws the midlist in order to float the lead titles at $7.99 without fear of competition from high quality books.

    So right now, yes, you may well be making as much as you would if your book were priced lower (although we don’t have any direct evidence of that). But I think that’s happening at the expense of a lot of other authors–and I suspect you probably don’t have to go too far down the food chain to find authors who are feeling the brunt of this.

    I’m not blaming you for this or suggesting that you bear fault. You’re a beneficiary of market forces, and that is nothing but awesome for you. And you deserve it, because you’re an amazing author. I’ve loved many of your books, and I want you to succeed in whatever way you can.

    But the full-price strategy that Pocket is employing is one that works for you at the expense of shooting midlist authors in the foot.

    So that’s why I asked my question. It’s not directed at you in particular. It’s directed at the people who aren’t on that list.

    If a publisher doesn’t have a digital strategy to support the midlist, what is the publisher bringing to the table for the midlist?

    (I just need to add at the end that I’m not speaking for any particular Pocket authors–which should be obvious, since I’m not a Pocket author. It’s perfectly possible to disagree with me, and I suspect there are Pocket midlist authors who will.)

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  14. Nicole says:

    This is truly fascinating, and as an author that hopes to soon be published, you gave me some things to consider as I proceed in this business. (I don’t write his/rom, but it’s my favorite to read so this interests me as a reader.)

    Just to give real world proof to your case…my mother has become addicted to her Kindle app and recently told me she read “all the Courtney Milan books because they were so affordable”. She loved the first and kept reading, obviously because you’re amazing, but she started and very easily continued at breakneck speed because of the price point. I might add that this is her new reading strategy—try the affordable books. I imagine she has purchased a lot of Avon books without realizing.

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  15. @Nicole: Thank you, Nicole!

    This is pretty much my strategy. Right now, not enough publishers have jumped on the midlist pricing bandwagon. They will–I think that’s just an economic necessity–so this is my window of opportunity.

    Get people addicted to my books quickly.

    :)

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  16. Lisa W says:

    I love your posts! So fascinating and I totally agree from a reader stand point. If I were to look at my HR (non self published) shelf on my kindle, it is probably seventy percent Avon books. Why? Because they have all these sales and I pick up anything that interests me. It’s only .99 or 1.99. Will I ever read all them…um, probably not lol…but I bought them. However if I look at my paperbacks they are very heavily from St Martins, Berkeley, Pocket and RH. Why? Because they rarely discount their ebooks. I won’t pay 7.99 for an ebook when I could get the paperback cheaper almost every time. Which is frustrating to me because I prefer ebooks now. I hope some of these other publishing houses start to consider a better digital plan…so many readers out there and you need to grab them!

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  17. Julia Quinn says:

    This is fascinating, Courtney!

    I have been very pleased with Avon’s digital strategy, in that A) they actually have one and B) they are not afraid to experiment and, if necessary, reverse course. One of the biggest differences (from a publisher’s standpoint) between paper books and e-books is pricing flexibility, and I have been very happy with my publisher’s willingness to experiment and figure out what works.

    Like Sabrina, I, too, would love to see the price points on all the books on the bestseller list. For the record, A Night Like This (my frontlist title for 2012) was $6.99. It went on sale for $1.99 for about a week in December. It’s now $5.59, although I’m not sure when that change was made.

    The Duke and I (which originally came out in 2000) also went on sale for $1.99 in 2012 (in August), and also for only about a week. It did go on a much longer sale in January 2013, but those numbers wouldn’t be included in the PW list. For most of 2012, The Duke and I was priced between $5.99 and $6.99.

    I’ve already had MUCH more visible sales for e-books in 2013; it will be interesting to see what the numbers look like when PW does the next list.

    JQ

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  18. JQ, thank you so much for the information. That’s hugely helpful. I remembered that there were sales on your books (vaguely remembered–not that it helped me, since I already had all of them), but not when and how long and for how much.

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  19. Sharlene Wegner says:

    I am not a writer, but just to put my 2 cents in, I read historical & contemporary romance & still prefer print books. Amazon had buy 3, get one free last year, but they don’t any more. Target has paperbacks for $5.99, and I think Walmart does, too, although selection is more limited. I don’t own an e-reader & I don’t get the e-books (for PC) unless that is the only option available or they are free. If there are back titles, I would most likely get them at the library. I have read more than half of your 2012 list & bought the print book, except for the novellas which were only available digitally.

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  20. @Sharlene Wegner:

    Thanks so much for your comment. I think that the point about being able to get discounted print books is really important, too.

    And thank you for buying my books in print. I really appreciate it.

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  21. Wow, thanks Courtney! Fabulous article and extremely informative. : )

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  22. Tessa Dare says:

    Well, this is an awesome post. I, too, am very grateful to Avon for being flexible and experimenting with the pricing.

    Even though I have nicked the bestseller lists a few times now, I’m definitely still working to build an audience. I really think for an author like me, $4.99 or below is the sweet spot. $4.99 was the original price for A Week to be Wicked. It sold great and earned more than any of my others in digital have, even though it was the lowest priced. When the next book (A Lady by Midnight) came out, it was priced at $5.99. It had higher presales and first-week sales than AWTBW, but the sales dropped off much faster. (As is evident by the fact that it’s not on that PW list – though I think it came pretty close.) There are, I’m sure, multiple factors at work there, including buzz, reviews, cover, blurb, other books out that month, and so forth. But I do suspect that the higher price put a cap on the number of impulse and browsing purchases. I still reached my core readership, but I didn’t reach as many new readers.

    Tl;dr:

    A) Purely anecdotally, from my experience, lower pricing has increased overall revenue–not the reverse.

    B) I’m very happy that my next full-length release is priced at $4.99 in digital. Thanks, Avon!

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  23. Patricia M says:

    I am a reader, not writer, and prefer print books. I will rarely chose a digital over a print version of a book, but I have found myself buying digital copies of books that I have already read and some, that I kept. I have both print and digital copies of several of Loretta Chase’s books, for example (multiple print copies of Lord of Scoundrals, just in case). The price was a major factor in my decision to buy digital copies but I found there were advantages such as, if I don’t like the print books I brought on that beach vacation, I know I have old favorites to pull up. I will re-buy digitally my old favorites or my favorite authors when the price is right.

    I have read all of Tessa Dare’s Spindle Cove books, for example, but found them on sale digitally and picked them up (this week, I think) because the price was irresistible. I realise that this sale was as a promotion for her next book, and it certainly caught my attention so now I know to look for it.

    I am willing to try a new-to-me author if the price is low. I think I am getting a bargain so, if I don’t like the book, I have used up little of my book budget. I am willing to try the experiment again, even with the same author whose book was not greatly to my taste, since I did not feel “ripped off”. I regularly use the library to try new-to-me authors in print since there is only so much money that I can spend on books in a particular month and I want to feel good about the purchases I do make.

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  24. This is a really interesting discussion. As a historical romance Montlake author, one of my books that came out in 2012 would have topped the list (and it was a 3rd edition – Berkley, Indie, Montlake). The other that came out at the same time would have been near the top. My one remaining indie book would also have made the list. Pricing is definitely key with digital sales, but alone it’s not enough as a digital strategy. There is still the discoverability issue, and as an Amazon author I’ve benefitted greatly from their power at getting books discovered. However, I managed to make these books discoverable on my own before Montlake picked them up, and would have made a list like this with all three of my existing books in 2011 when they were all indie. Flexible pricing, and targeted marketing – often not expensive and driven by data whenever possible – need to go hand in hand in a digital strategy. If your publisher is doing one or the other, but not both (and Avon would seem to be doing both) you still aren’t going to get as much digital traction from your publisher as you could. And as you say, Courtney, why would you take another contract under those circumstances?

    Oh, and the price vs unit sales relationship – with fair royalty rates on digital sales, plus the volume of units sold, I’m making a huge amount more than I ever did on my bargain priced paper books from Berkley, and the ebooks don’t go out of print.

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  25. @Patricia M: Patricia, thank you so much for the comment. It’s really cool to see why and when primarily print readers pick up digital. (And I hope you love Tessa’s Spindle Cove series–I do!)

    @Laurin Wittig: Thank you so much for the comment. I’ve been watching what Montlake does for their authors, and it’s nice to have my guess that Montlake would top the list be confirmed. And congratulations on the success of your third edition. :)

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  26. Tessa Dare says:

    @Patricia M: Thanks so much for trying/buying the Spindle Cove books! And thanks for your detailed comment. Like Courtney said, It’s so helpful to hear from readers.

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  27. Vicki A says:

    I’m an avid reader who reads easily over 20 books a month. Because of the volume, price is extremely important to me. I made the switch to digital just before the advent of agency pricing and haven’t looked back. I used to get my paperbacks from Amazon for 4 for 3, 25% off cover at the big box stores, and a very large number of them at 50% off cover from used book stores. You would think I would use libraries but I don’t, I purchase everything. However, I have never paid $7.99 for a paperback book.

    Once all e-books from the big houses were priced at $7.99 I abandoned my auto-buy authors and started looking elsewhere (Sabrina Jeffries, you were one them). Along the way I found new auto-buy authors (Courtney Milan) among the smaller houses and self-published authors who were pricing their digital offerings much more reasonably.

    And then Avon started discounting while Agency was still in effect. For $0.99 & $1.99 I’m replacing paper copies I already own with digital. With the $4.99 front-list price point I’ve found new auto-buy authors: Tessa Dare, Miranda Neville & Sarah MacLean. I have bought dozens and dozens of backlist books priced at $0.99, $1.99 & $2.99 from authors I’ve been meaning to try but never got around to. Would I have found them and purchased their books at a higher price point? In this competitive digital market? Not likely. Will I read them all? Who knows, but I may find new auto-buys among them and the fact remains that I’ve already spent money on a book(s) I would never have looked at for $7.99.

    Once the Agency publishers settled and discounting started again, I have returned to some of my old auto-buy authors, but only during aggressive retailer sales. Even then they are still competing with the more aggressively priced Avon, self-pub and small house titles and are usually losing my dollars.

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  28. Courtney,

    I think you’ve missed one big reason that most traditional publishers are keeping their ebook prices high. They need to protect the print distribution network. Lower ebook prices would change that 5-1 ratio of print to ebook that the big name authors see. As that starts to change, the value of the traditional publisher diminishes to those big name authors. There’s a tipping point out there somewhere (nobody really knows where it is, but the romance genre will hit it first) when the value of print distribution falls to the point that the big names can make more money on their own (or with Montlake which is equally terrifying to the traditional publishers).

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  29. Moriah says:

    As a reader, I have moved to buying only e-books, although I will still read print books from my library. I can say for me, the 4.99 price is typically my cutoff for buying e-books except on one or two rare occasions. I think that that’s my pricing sweet spot as one of the previous posts mentioned. For a new author, I don’t usually like to pay more than 3.99 unless I had it recommended by someone or the premise is unique and intriguing. An interesting note about some e-book pricing – I believe the kindle version of Amanda Quick’s latest release was priced hirer than what I paid for the audio version at Audible. I find that very interesting when you consider that not only was a writer involved in the audio version, but a narrator also has to be compensated for their work. There is no way I would even consider buying an e-book when this is the case

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  30. persnickety says:

    I am a reader, probably averaging a book every couple of days, more in months with public holidays. I am also an American who now lives in Australia, with stints in the UK and Japan for added effect (yes that matters). Books in australia are out of sight expensive ($20 for a paperback- back when they were less than $5 in the US). This has been put down to many factors, things like “cost of shipping” and “GST (sales tax)”. So, theoretically, ebooks here in Australia should be substantially cheaper. They are not. This speaks to me of that second publishing strategy, but what it does is also really annoy me as a reader. Books in the UK and Japan were marginally more expensive than the US, but nowhere near as bad as Australia. It affected my book buying habits.

    So, between my husband and I, we have bought a lot of the Avon books on sale, Courtney Milan, Julie Ann Long, Loretta Chase and Tessa Dare. What I have not bought is Mary Balogh books, or Jayne Ann Krentz, because at roughly $12 per ebook, they are now out of my price range. Their backlist is out of sight expensive as well. I have noticed the discounting on backlist before new books for Julia Quinn and Stephanie Laurens, and that has enabled me to get large chunks of the backlist.

    We are in the process of downsizing our physical books, because of planned intercontinental moves. On the whole, what gets kept are art books, craft books, childhood treasures, Kage Baker and Terry Pratchett. If I am not buying an ebook, I am not buying that author (unless they meet the criteria above).

    Very rambling, but the essential point for me is, if your ebook is above $4.99, there needs to be a really, really good reason for me to buy. I need to be hooked on that author, and if I am never given the opportunity to buy at that price point, well I may never read that author. And side note- the discounting strategy worked on my husband- he bought pretty much every Spindle Cove novel there was after reading the first one (which we did buy at a very cheap price).

    I remain surprised that the larger publishers are not slicing and dicing the data to gain greater market share overall, but it appears not. I wonder if that will be the next generation of managers who truly understand.

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  31. @Vicki A: Thank you so much for this perspective. One thing I hadn’t thought of is that an aggressive backlist strategy allows readers to replace paper copies with digital–and that encourages rereads and author loyalty. I’m fairly certain that there are series I had read in print, where a backlist title sale has spurred me to pick up a copy and reread it.

    @persnickety: Global digital strategy is also really important, and I’m so glad you pointed this out. Availability of my books worldwide is one of the reasons I turned to self-publishing. I’m told that some of my Harlequin books are still unavailable in Australia, or are priced so high as to be prohibitive, and that makes me sad. :(

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  32. Not much to add to this fascinating discussion except the following: Anecdotes are not data, and data is not a tested hypothesis, but in late 2010/early 2011, I was the new author whose works were deeply discounted upon first offering. Book One was priced at $2.39 for the first six weeks and within six months, had a 30-day stint at $.99. Yippee! Hit the NYT! The second book sold like hotcakes only as long as it was similarly discounted (long enough to also blip onto the NYT). Subsequent titles that have not been deeply discounted have not sold like hotcakes, though a few of them would have grazed the lists above, and they have generated comparable revenue.
    Book one was a PW best book, Book Two a LJ honorable mention, so I think they were qualitatively adequate to attract readers for subsequent titles (good strategy/PR will bury a poor quality product faster than no strategy/PR, yes?). Soooo…
    How do we separate building reader loyalty to our pricing, from building reader loyalty to our books?
    Makes my head to spin.

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  33. @Grace Burrowes:

    Grace, thank you so much for commenting! It looks like Sourcebooks wasn’t asked or didn’t answer the survey, and I know they’ve done a handful of fairly aggressive pricing experiments, too.

    I have a lot of things that I have thought about pricing/reader loyalty, and most of them come down to this: You build reader loyalty by writing really good books, and then maximizing the ways that readers can find those books in the future.

    And just as I think there are very, very few publishers that are aggressively experimenting with the digital strategy for discoverability (the buzzword of the day), I think the real buzzword of the day for authors is not discoverability but rediscoverability–what are you doing to make it easy for readers to become loyal to your books?

    This is an area where I think publishers are falling down on the job even more than they are on digital pricing, which might strike some as a funny thing to say–but when I released two books in December of 2013, the effect it had on my backlist was such that my 2011 backlist books from HQN books were ranked far above most of HQN’s frontlist for that month.

    Data is not anecdote, but I have done some handwaving A/B testing using URL trackers and different versions of books uploaded at different times to Apple so that I can get a bead on number of books sold versus clicks that I get for different pieces of back matter.

    For a depressing percentage of romance publishers, if I said to them “this is what I’ve discovered about back matter,” their response would be, “durr, back matter?” Because a sizable number of them do not have back matter at all in their books–and that’s where you build reader loyalty.

    (I don’t like the term “reader loyalty” because I don’t feel like readers owe me their allegiance; it feels weird for me to talk about it in those terms. I’m not a country or a football team, so you don’t have to root for me. I try to think of it more in terms of a symbiotic relationship–readers want to read good books, and some subset of readers think that I write good books, and would therefore like to read more of them. So it’s my job to make it as easy as possible for those readers who think I write good books to find the books that I write. So how am I going to do that?

    There are a large number of publishers out there that are still putting the “Other Books by this Author” at the front of their ebooks. This is ridiculously useless, because the books automatically open on Chapter One, skipping that content entirely–and ebooks don’t flip well, nor do they close and open to the front. “Other Books by this Author” belongs at the back of an ebook, not the front, and it takes about a week of preliminary testing to determine that clickable links placed at the front of an ebook get 0 clicks over thousands sold, while links at the back perform much better.)

    (And–seriously–this question should be asked to publishers everywhere–why is it that Courtney Milan can manage preliminary, non-scientific A/B testing on what generates clicks when she has no staff and only a handful of books to work with, and you produce thousands of books and have lots of people on staff, and you haven’t managed to do anything? Also, why is nothing in your ebook clickable?)

    In any event, I have about seventy thousand blog posts full of stuff that I could say on this front, and every time I give a workshop on this I talk for hours and could talk for hours more. I gave a workshop at my home chapter last month where I spent 30 minutes talking about the one page after the end of the book–what your goals should be, what amazingly successful authors are doing and why it works, and how you can make it work for you.

    So yeah, I think that the two halves of building a career as an author are having a digital strategy for discoverability, and maximizing rediscoverability.

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  34. Anecdata! I’m another one replacing print books with digital whenever possible. It’s a goal: I need to be able to swap rooms with my son when he outgrows his crib, and the 2000 remaining books in my study simply won’t fit in his smaller room. I keep an Amazon wish list called “Kindle replacements,” and I go through it every couple of weeks, sorted by price, to see if anything’s gone on sale. I bought ALL of Georgette Heyer’s books when Sourcebooks put them at $1.99 for her birthday, and all of Patrick O’Brian’s when his went down to $3.99. That was, what, close to $200 on two authors? But they’re favorites I’ll reread forever (having jailbroken the DRM, sigh) and it got me three shelves emptied. Lois McMaster Bujold and Sharon Lee/Steve Miller were among my first replacements, because Baen had great prices before they signed on with Amazon. The others who are taking up a lot of shelf space, like Kage Baker and Jim Butcher, I simply can’t afford to replace at the $9.99 the publisher is charging to keep parity with the trade paperbacks they’re pushing in stores. It drives me nuts.

    Courtney, I’d love to read the post on back matter. Or an entire ebook on creating and marketing ebooks. You know, in your copious spare time.

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  35. Tal says:

    As a reader for over 10 years, I think I have a different perspective. I have auto buys, EVERY author mentioned above. For me I see those “top” lists and a lot of those ebooks are .99, I just think people a limited budgets and don’t want to spend.. Me I have a limited budget but I am not going to buy any random author just cause the book is cheap. I fell for that a few times.. like when there are no new releases(and I have read everything!!)and need something so I don’t drink! The downfall is they are just NOT good.. not the writing not the characters..nothing.. so I save my money for my ‘auto buys’..
    Now that being said I do want to try new authors, I agree maybe not at the 7.99 price point, but then how? advertising? Excerpts in other books?
    I think Avon just cares about(and are smarter when it comes down to pricing, digital or print) their historicals more than any other publisher, that to me is fact.Over the years that is obvious.
    Regardless, I will buy my authors no matter where, no matter how much!!!

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  36. persnickety says:

    @Courtney Milan: Yes, your backlist in Australia is insanely expensive. I had to hook my husband on your books before we could venture into those waters. HQN Australia is actually on my short list of “publisher not buy from in any format because their incredibly stupid ebook policies”. There are other publishers there, but they earned their way on by having high prices and not selling in Kindle compatible format. I used to communicate to authors regarding this as well- ie your book is currently unavailable in ebook format/insanely expensive and due to that I am boycotting your book & publisher. Probably not appreciated much by the authors in question, but the idea was to make the point that poor digital management would cost them physical sales too.
    We do currently have a workaround that enables us to buy books (rather than resort to downloading) at the US price, but pretty sure there are a few laws being broken in there, and I am waiting for the day when that little loophole gets closed.

    Both Sourcebooks and Baen have models that imply someone is considering the digital strategy carefully and collecting data and applying it. Baen was offering free ebooks a decade ago, notably the first one of series- somewhat like the purported drug dealer method of a free sample to get one hooked- and in the case of Bujold and Weber, it certainly worked for me.

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  37. I’ve been reading exclusively 19th century historicals which is, as you well know, a huge genre, for over a year now. When I started out I read books I’d kept for years (Garwood/Spencer) and then started looking around. I used Amazon as a *resource* and went to the highest rated. This lead to Julia Quinn – who I’ve since learned is a gateway author. At first, I bought print books, but that gets expensive quickly. I started buying used print books and built up my library that way, but if someone is reading voraciously, I can’t see how they would not turn to e-books. I switched to Kindle and haven’t looked back. (It was my husband’s Kindle, so his Amazon recommendations got interesting very quickly.) I am, of course, more willing to try an author, if I’m offered a great price. Once I find a good writer, adn I’ve tried sixty-something in a little over a year, I will gradually buy their back catalogue as pricing permits. I recently purchased eleven Lisa Kleypas historicals for my Kindle that I already owned in paperback because the publisher FINALLY reduced the price. I have a list of about 6 authors whose books I will pay full MMP price for as an ebook or otherwise, but also a similar list of those I will only pay *less* than full price for, or borrow from the library. The sooner more publishers cotton on to readers who function like this, the better they will do. I certainly do not begrudge the authors whose back catalogues are flooding onto the e-book market for finding another source of revenue.

    I couldn’t even find any Courtney Milan books in a book store when I was specifically seeking them out, even though you were extremely (and extraordinarily-justifiably) highly-recommended. I’m glad you’ve found a method of publishing that is working for you. The last time I was in a Barnes and Noble, the other patrons heard me exclaiming, “How can you not have any Milan or Long and only one MacLean?!”

    It was very interesting to see authors from my autobuy list commenting here (2 days to the new Tessa Dare!), and always fascinating to read Courtney’s perspective on the realities of publishing.

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  38. Yvette R says:

    I’m days behind everyone else, but I only just came across this blog dialog. I’m a reader who watches authors more than pricing, but I also keep my printed books for decades because I assume that digital formats will change over time. I don’t want to have to re-buy books over & over through the years. Printed books don’t need charging after a certain number of hours.

    Having said that, I got a tablet last year. I waited until they were relatively cheap because I wanted to get e-book apps, not a kindle or a nook. I don’t like being forced to buy from only one e-book source. If something is only available from one source, that is where I get it. If it is available from more than one source, I buy from the one with the best price, or THE ONE WITH THE BEST FORMATTING. That’s in capitals because I don’t that the digital publishers pay enough attention to that either. I was delighted that Loretta Chase’s earliest books were finally available in digital form. HOWEVER, that formatting on most of them sucks big-time. If I were her, I’d be pissed.

    There is too little attention paid to the formatting of some e-books. If given a choice, I will always go for the one which has been properly proofread. Too many companies seem to think that indiscriminate use of spell-check is a good substitute for good proofreading. I have found quite a few places where historically correct dialog has been spell-checked into nonsence because the words used are now archaic. Give me an old printed book with good proofreading any time over a badly proofread e-book.

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  39. Carly m. says:

    Digital strategy encompasses more than just pricing. I think Avon does extremely well with building blog buzz from high profile romance blogs. Looking over my blog feed the last few days, I think, oh Tessa Dare must have a new book out because its being reviewed on four or five blogs I follow and respect. Anecdote, not data, but a great review from Dear Author, SBTB, Smexybooms, etc. has led to many impulse purchases for me, especially on untested authors.

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  40. persnickety says:

    I think there are some missed opportunities in e book pricing and marketing. I remember reading that the advent of the web caused a lot of magazine advertisers to rethink their spend- once it became clear that people reading (for example) Vanity Fair never clicked through on the car banner ads on the Vanity Fair site, perhaps they weren’t paying attention to the double page ad in the paper magazine. What people want, what they say they want and what they do can be three different things. When the double page ad was the only ad, it was easier for the ad company, and the magazine to present the audience as receptive, once it became evident they were not, rethink.
    I suspect the same is true in publishing- head office think that people buy books because of reason x, when in fact, factors S and t have a greater impact than realised.
    And as a final anecdote, for my reading purposes Mary Stewart, Georgette Heyer and Marion Chesney offer the same type of book- a light, fun romance, low on angst, sometimes with mystery. I prefer Heyer and Stewart BUT Mary Stewart’s back list is $12.50 per book, Heyer costs me between $7 and $9. Chesney currently has books available to me between $2.99 and $7.50 (i note that the $2.99 doesn’t seem to be available in the USA!) Guess what author I have on my Kindle? If Stewart’s books cost $6 I would own her entire backlist, but at that price i refuse to buy.

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  41. Joane says:

    Great post! I’m a Spanish reader and I read romance novels both in Spanish (translateed) & in English. I read paper and ebooks. Since I had my Kindle, I read a lot I digital. From a reader POV, I have to say that price is important in a sense: I don’t buy digitals above 5 euros, this is more or less 6.50 dollars. And I know more readers that do the same. They also have a limited budget in paper (no hardcovers, for instance and a lot of paperback)…
    So the first strategy for a publishing house in the digital market should be the price.
    The second one should be ‘re-printing’ in digital ‘oldies’ that are unavailable otherwise. And, of course, for new authors, there’s a whole world of opportunities. Digital costs (lower if you compare to paper) allowes you to take more risks.
    I would like to add that for us, the foreign romance readers, digital is simply the greatest invention since the washing machine. You can download inmediately the latest novel of your favorite author, whereas, in the past, you have to travel abroad, or ask someone to send it to you.
    I guess we are not a great market but we are also part of the market. And as I write and read in many blogs and webpages about romance novels in Spanish, I find out that there’s always a little group of readers that read directly in English and are not waiting for the book to be translated -because many times that translation is never done. For example, only one book from C. Milan has been translated into Spanish.

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  42. Thank you Courtney, and everyone else who has commented. I am in the early stages of publishing (agent is submitting my work to editors), and this is the type of information I am arming myself with to make the best decisions for my writing career. I really appreciate the time taken to share this!

    Additionally, those lower Avon price points are noteable; just yesterday I saved Sarah Maclean’s A Rogue by any Other Name on my Nook; I chose to download this rather than get the print copy from the library so I can have it on the convenience of an e-reader. Sale right there, over a free lend.

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  43. Lila Gillard says:

    I want to add to chorus thanking Courtney, and other commenters. I am a newbie author about to go on submission with my first book–a historical romance. I’m trying to move my brain from write the book! edit the book! find an agent! to thinking more strategically about the process. your insights and candor are truly appreciated.

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  44. Tam says:

    A little late to the party, but fascinating post! Avon is really dominating.

    For me it’s been interesting overall to follow how the book publishing industry is changing because of e-books. Just look at these statistics below from the Association of American Publishers (APP) surveys:

    “In 2002, those Trade publishers reporting eBooks to AAP noted the format represented 0.05% of their total share of net revenue

    By 2006, eBooks were reported as 0.50% of participating Trade publishers’ net revenue; it reached 1.18% by 2008

    The following year, the digital transition was underway and percentages reported grew rapidly: from 3.17% (2009) to 16.98% (2011) and now, for 2012, 22.55%”

    Essentially e-books are responsible for almost a quarter of the surveyed book publisher’s total net revenue in 2012 according to APP. According to IBISWorld’s Industry Report 45121: Book Stores in the US, e-book sales reached $128.8 million in month of January 2012 alone; a 76.0% increase when compared to last year. I think all this data reinforces the sentiment that e-books are become more and more relevant in the book publishing industry and shouldn’t be ignored.

    Having a digital strategy (and pricing strategy for those e-books) to try to take advantage of the growth in this sector of book publishing definitely seems like the right move and almost a no-brainer.

    Look at how successful Valve/Steam, a platform that sells digital games, is doing. They experiment with pricing and have found huge jumps in sales when they advertise reduced pricing. At the WTIA TechNW panel, Gabe Newell, co-founder of Valve, spoke about what they found when they experimented with pricing. Changed price (silently, not advertised) and they found that pricing was perfectly elastic. Next they did a sale that promoted a 75% price reduction and their gross revenue increase by a FACTOR of 40, not 40% but a factor of 40. “Promotions on the digital channel increased sales at retail at the same time, and increased sales after the sale was finished, which falsified the temporal shifting and channel cannibalization arguments. Essentially, your audience, the people who bought the game, were more effective than traditional promotional tools. So we tried a third-party product to see if we had some artificial home-field advantage. We saw the same pricing phenomenon. Twenty-five percent, 50 percent and 75 percent very reliably generate different increases in gross revenue.” (Gabe Newell)I think this helps reinforce the idea that a digital (pricing and advertising) strategy is important in not just say, book publishing, but even in the game industry that is getting digitized (There are differences between the two of course).

    I can’t help but feel like book publishers HAVE to be look at digital pricing strategy data and figuring out (or at least trying to) what works and what doesn’t. They must realize that change is occurring and that they have to keep up, right?

    I got a little off topic, but yes– very fun to think about. Thanks for the very interesting post. People comments on the topic were great as well. Geez, this got a bit lengthy.

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  45. Meara says:

    @Courtney Milan:

    So obviously, I am mega late to the party, but this is fascinating. The only thing that could be better about this post/comment stream is if there were graphs. (Although there is probably insufficient publicly-available data for all the really interesting comparisons anyway, so I get it.)

    Anyway, as a voracious romance reader, I thought I might as well chime in with a report of my own consumer behavior. I am young (24), slightly broke, and live in a tiny apartment, so these days I only buy ebooks. With the exception of text/reference books, I think the last time I bought an actual paper book was during the demise of Borders. So for me, at least, all these digital pricing strategies completely work.

    I read a lot–according to my Kindle purchase record I bought 21 books in the month of April, which I think is well in line with my average. Of those 21, 19 were romances, 14 were historical romances, and 6 were authored by Courtney Milan. Why? Because The Governess Affair was free. I read it, I loved it, and I bought pretty much everything else you had on Amazon as a result. So yes, you hooked me. And hooked me hard–I am on your website in the first place because I’ve been dying to know when your next book is coming out. (Please say soon! Love this series. Also full disclosure–I had apparently read a couple of your HQN books years ago and clearly forgot to watch for follow-ups from you, so technically I am a re-discoverer. Won’t make that mistake again.)

    I used my month of April and your books as an example, but that instance is by no means an isolated phenomenon in my reading. Similar circumstances have led to me discovering and following several authors, including Grace Burrowes, Tessa Dare, and Loretta Chase. (I realize Loretta Chase is not technically a new author, but new to me, so totally counts.)

    I am an extremely price-sensitive consumer of books because I read so much. (Ever since I accidentally spent $200 on ebooks in a month I have a strict book budget.) If I regularly bought books at the $7.99 list price I would blow through my book allowance in a week and a half. So I really really appreciate when I can find a great book or novella collection for under $5. Under $3 is even better. If it’s $1.99 or less, I might buy it even if I’ve read it before. (Most of my Julia Quinn ebook library happened that way–for books I like a lot I’ll buy the digital copy for ease of re-reading even if I already have the paperback.) That said, I do buy books full price–but it’s probably an author I already love, and even then the kindle sample has to hook me.

    I might be an example carried to an extreme–I have no idea to what extent my habits play out in the aggregate. I’m sure there are still plenty of readers like my mother, who will happily pay full price for an author she knows she enjoys. But my demographic is growing–and I’m still the one who introduces new authors to my mother.

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  46. Julie says:

    Commenting on an old post… but I just wanted to add another mention of the importance of easy availability of backlist titles in affordable digital editions. I’m a brand new reader of yours, and here’s what happened: I saw a glowing review of The Heiress Effect. I did a quick search, and started reading the Governess Affair on my Kindle within minutes. That was yesterday morning, and I’m now deep into The Duchess War. (Great stuff, btw.) I prefer to read a new series in order rather than picking up the newest title. The old days of backlist titles being unavailable would have made me crazy. But thanks to your clever strategy of easing a reader into your series, I’ll be caught up in no time and be ready to snap up your next book when it comes out, at a higher price point if necessary.

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Courtney Milan writes historical romance novels like the ones you see to the right. She still remembers bits and pieces from her old lives, where she was (variously) a scientist and a lawyer.

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