I am publishing a collection of short stories as an e-book. In this week’s blog posts I’m trying to work through relevant pricing issues and set a price for that content.
On Twitter yesterday @leadigloo pointed me to Matt Bell’s Wolf Parts web page, where Matt talks about the sale and price of his upcoming book by that same name:
…this edition of Wolf Parts will only be available to people who pre-order the book before its print date of March 21, 2010. The book costs $8 (with free shipping), for which you’ll receive the perfect-bound minibook, plus an audiobook version that you’ll be able to download immediately upon completion of your order. As an added bonus, you’ll also receive an e-coupon for $3 off my full-length collection How They Were Found when it becomes available for pre-order later this year, sometime before its October release.
Now, obviously there’s a lot of stuff here in this limited-time offer: a perfect-bound minibook, an audiobook and a $3 coupon off the price of another book. Embarrassingly, I have to admit that I have no idea what a ‘pefect-bound minibook’ is, so I’m going to have to look that up. I was also a bit confused by some of the details, but Matt added an explanatory note:
Basically, if you order Wolf Parts during the next three weeks–the only time it will be available for purchase online–you’ll receive the audiobook immediately, the print minibook in early April, and, should you later choose to order How They Were Found directly from Keyhole, you’ll get that book for just $11 (instead of the usual $14), plus some pre-order bonuses for that book that we’re not ready to talk about yet.
Obviously Matt is doing a great deal more with his products and pricing than I’m trying to do. I have one collection of twelve stories that I plan to initially offer as an e-book, and I’m trying to figure out what the price of that collection should be. If I understand Matt’s offer (further clarified here), $8 = cost of book1 + audiobook + coupon for $3 savings on book2. $14 is the retail price of book2, but by spending $8 on book1 now you save $3 on book2 later.
As a consumer, I confess that I feel like I would be getting a lot of stuff for my money. But I also have the same I’m-not-quite-sure-what’s-happening-here feeling I get when I hear a cellphone pricing plan described. And I can’t find any direct info on book2, even though Matt’s ads seem to point to it. (The prominent links currently send me back to the promo for book1, not to information about book2.)
In the end, after thinking about this overnight, I believe there are two takeaways for me here. First, adding stuff to your offer is a positive. More stuff not only feels like more stuff, but it puts offers with less stuff at a disadvantage. I can’t really think right now what stuff I might add to my short story collection other than an audiobook, but I think the lesson holds. (Note to self: look up info on creating audiobooks.)
Second, I think any lack of clarity in what you are offering is a bad thing, and gives people an excuse to say no. Be clear in your pricing and offers.
As to how all this relates to my own pricing quest, I’m not sure I can draw any direct conclusions. I don’t know what it cost Matt to make the minibook and the audiobook, so I don’t now how each is accounted for in the $8 asking price. I also don’t know how much Matt is trying to leverage sales of book2 by discounting book1. About the only thing I think I can say with certainty is that Matt’s not going the free/freemium route.
Note: because of the limited duration of Matt’s offer(s), the links above may not persist. I considered adding screenshots to this post, but I elected not to in order to avoid driving later traffic to Matt’s site under expired circumstances. I hope the quotes will suffice in documenting the record at the time of this post’s publication.
— Mark Barrett
Vincent Eaton says
Yeah, Matt’s offer sounds a bit too much like conventional online marketing guru advice overload. Keeping it simple is safer, indeed. One book, one extra offer. If you have another offer, add it (them) down the line, bit at a time, such as after the book is out and first offer expired, to keep those potential readers who didn’t want the audio but might then want that mysterious perfect bound (or vice versa). Long-tail the sucker, I say, no quick dumps of all offers and then what follows?
The notice of the deal itself was written in a familiar tone, as if he expected most people to know what the work was about. The fact that I wasn’t clear on all the details probably wasn’t a good sign, but it might also have been because I wasn’t the target of the offer. (Although I think you want to make sure that people who drop by feel included.)
It’s very easy to get gadgety and tricky about anything, including sales. And I have to say: confusing (and lying to) the customer clearly works for all the cellphone plans providers. Nobody knows what they’re really paying for, and the real costs and punitive fees are often hidden. Still, that doesn’t strike me as a particularly useful lesson for the book business in general, or me in particular.
I do like the idea of pipelining product. It’s something I hadn’t really thought about, so thank you.