Bad Publicity, O'Nan, Price Point

By now I'm sure you saw or heard about the article published by The Stanford Daily about how a study proved that bad publicity may boost book sales. Here are some bits from the article:

The overall study consisted of three mini-studies. The first study involved the examination of a 2001-2003 dataset of weekly national sales for 244 fiction titles reviewed by The New York Times. By measuring the size of sale spikes in the week following the release of each book review, the study showed two main points: positive publicity benefited all titles and the bad publicity only helped lesser-known and obscure authors.

So that first study examined books that came out nearly a decade ago. This was all before the "e-book revolution," but does that really mean anything? Probably not.

The second study looked at the effects bad publicity had in well-known and obscure books over time. Some subjects looked at glowing and negative reviews for a well-known book by John Grisham and reviews for an obscure, made-up title.

Subjects who read negative reviews of well-known books were less likely to buy the book. Negative reviews of unknown books, however, did not affect whether or not the subject was likely to purchase it.

In the end, what does this mean for you and me and our next door neighbor? Probably nothing at all, but it's still pretty interesting.

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Stewart O'Nan has a new novel coming out next month called Emily, Alone, which is a sequel to his 2003 novel Wish You Were Here. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review. I'm very much looking forward to it, and you should be too, but in the meantime, check out this recent interview with the author via Writers At Cornell:

Stewart O'Nan

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For the two or three of you who haven't heard yet about Joe Konrath's latest e-book experiment, he took one of his books that was priced at $2.99 and lowered the price to 99 cents. And, as you can imagine, there was an increase:

At $2.99, I was earning $2.03 per download. And I was selling an average of 43 ebooks a day.

At 99 cents, I only earn 35 cents per download. I'm now averaging 205 sales a day.

At $2.99, I made $87 a day.

At 99 cents, I'm making $71 a day.

But in the last few days, The List has been selling stronger, averaging about 250 sales a day. If it can hold that number, or do even better, that's $87 a day--matching what it made at $2.99.

This is curious. At first glance, it seems like price and profit have found an equilibrium.

But there are obvious certain benefits to the 99 cent price point. Because it is now higher on the bestseller lists, it is seen more often. And 99 cents is more of an impulse purchase.

I like this book, and so do readers, and it's logical that the more people I get to read it, the more potential fans I'll make, and those fans will probably so and buy my other, more expensive ebooks.

What I've done here is the equivalent of putting turkey on sale for 19 cents a pound at the grocery store. The sale brings people in, then they buy other items that aren't on sale.

He isn't the only one finding that the 99 cent price point has helped boost sales. Jeremy Brooks recently lowered the e-book price of his novel Amity to 99 cents, and he saw his sales improve drastically (at least, that's how I read into his most recent tweets). Z. Constance Frost told me her sales weren't doing so hot at $2.99, and has since lowered No Shelter to 99 cents, but this, she said, was literally just yesterday, so it's impossible yet to see whether this will help.

And then of course you have writers who aren't selling hardly anything, even when their e-books are priced at 99 cents. Why? It's impossible to say. But I will admit the 99 cent price point is a great impulse buy, just like Konrath says. Bantam's been doing some smart promotion for Lisa Gardner's new book Love You More -- they priced her novel Alone at just 99 cents and included a sneak preview of her upcoming book. Alone quickly shot up Amazon's e-book Top 100. Since then the price has gone up to $2.99, but even still it's currently ranked at #1. I will admit, I was one of the ones who bought the book when it was 99 cents. Will I read it? Maybe. But at that price, it was a no-brainer.


Speaking of 99 cent e-books, have you checked out the Spooky Nook Giveaway Contest yet?