Are Indies Getting Clobbered by Big Name E-book Discounts?

I think we are. And, it’s a great time to be a reader and shopping for e-books!

Yep, tiny and skinny and it bothers me.

Yep, tiny and skinny and it bothers me.

The DOJ price-fixing case with Apple and the Big 5 publishers was settled awhile ago, but September was when Amazon began really discounting big name books. I get several email lists of discounted books daily in my inbox, and I’ve been agog to see big names like Janet Evanovich, Louise Perry, Michael Connelly, Patricia Cornwell and most recently, Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch, one of the Best Books of 2013, going for 2.99 or less.

I’ve bought more books than ever. More books than I should—but who can resist stockpiling these gems for a rainy reading day? I got the entire Game of Thrones set for around fifteen dollars! *goggle* If there’s ever a Zombie Apocalypse, I’ll be holed up in my bunker with all my ebook treasures, reading until the battery runs out!

Many of these have been older titles, but in preparing for Christmas, Barnes and Noble and Amazon seem to be pulling out all the stops and there’s no book whose price they won’t slash.

And in September, my sales went to half of what they’d been. They’ve stayed at half what they’d been in spite of doing active marketing, ads on Kirkus Reviews, giveaways, promos in those same lists I get in my email inbox, and launching two new books.

It’s like being the wimpy kid at the beach in that old commercial from the comics, getting sand kicked in your eye. Cheaper pricing was our advantage as indies.

I predicted this would happen in this blog post. In fact I’m surprised it took this long to happen. I’ve been asking around to other indies and they’re reporting similar dismal sales. So what can we do?

I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, and diversify. Here are some ideas to try:

  • Strengthen relationships with loyal readers. Loyal readers are awesome. They will buy and promote you through word of mouth no matter how cheap Janet Evanovich gets (though they may buy her too!)
  •  Develop a separate email list for loyal readers with access to special promos, contests, and fun opportunity.
  • Interact with your readers. I am asking more questions of readers on Facebook and Twitter, getting their ideas for Hawaii foods and activities to use in the next books. Everyone wants to know their opinion matters, and will buy the book to see how you used their input!
  • Reach out to new readers by trying new genres. I am known for mysteries, but I just did a romance which is getting great reviews so far, and a literary suspense which I think is my best book. I also just finished my memoir.
  • Go hybrid. I’m still shopping projects to traditional publishing with my agent: the Lei Crime Series for TV/Film, a YA novel Island Fire, and now my memoir Children of Paradise. I also plan continue self-publishing my mysteries and other books as fast as I can write them. By casting a wider net, I hope to be able to keep up with the changing market.
  • Expand into the print market. This is the riskiest thing (financially) I’ve taken on in attempts to compete with the Big Names. Unsound, my literary suspense, got a great review on Kirkus and it’s a standalone. I repriced it to bookstore standards with 55% to retailer and returnability enabled, and entered in the IndieReader catalog of recommended books, and advertised in Kirkus Reviews. I also paid extra to be featured in all Ingram’s book catalogs that go to retailers. EEEEEK! If a bookstore buys that book and doesn’t sell it and wants to return it, I’ll be out around six dollars a copy. But I think the book’s solid, and beautiful, and a great read—and if readers see it, they’ll buy it, even for 13.99.

What do you think indie authors can do to compete with the big dogs? 

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