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How eBook Discounts Can Help Drive Sales

Discounting ebooks can help new readers discover your books, and get existing readers to buy back catalog.

If you've self-published an ebook, you need to choose its pricing carefully. Ebook pricing is perceived differently than that of print books, since purchasers don't obtain anything tangible when they buy an ebook. Choosing the right price for your ebook can be difficult, and you may be tempted to try different prices to see how well your book sells. All ebook platforms let you change the price of your books whenever you want, so you can experiment with selling books at different prices.

Discounting ebooks can help drive sales, and help readers discover new authors. But they can also have other effects. If you discount one of your books, make sure to promote the discounts on your socials. If enough readers purchase the book, this will drive up the book's sales rank, and it could put it in the top 100 books on the platform where you've run the discount. Many readers look at these lists when trying to find new books to read, and getting on a best-seller list can keep the book selling, even after you've ended the discount.

It can be useful to think of discounting some of your books from time to time. If you write in a series and have already published several books in the series, it's a good idea to discount the first book in the series, perhaps even permanently. Selling a first installment for $.99 or £.99 could help attract readers who might not be sure that they are interested in your books. That price is cheap enough that someone can take a chance, and, if they don't like the book, not regret the expense. If they do like the book, they might go on to buy the rest of the series.

Even if you don't write in a series, you might want to discount one of your early books. The reason is the same: to get readers to discover what you've written. If they like it, they might buy more books. A good time to do this is when you've just published a new book at full price; if readers like the discounted book, they may pay full price for the newest title.

You can run short-term deep discounts for one or more of your books if you wish. You could try discounting a book for a week or two, and see if sales increase for that book and others. Amazon lets you run Kindle Countdown Deals, which are timed discounts. Amazon also runs Kindle daily deals and monthly deals. While Amazon's marketing team selects the books for these deals, you can nominate up to two books for these promotions. Amazon says that this process is in beta, and there are probably thousands of authors nominating their books, but it can't hurt to try.

Getting on Amazon's daily or monthly deals can have a huge effect on your books. While most of the deals are sold at $.99 or £.99, and you don't earn much from them, you may sell hundreds of books in a one-day deal. As with other discounts, this bumps your sales rank and can put your book in the best-seller lists. It can also give you valuable exposure, which is generally worth much more than what you've lost selling the books at a deep discount. Those readers who don't buy your book will still see your name, and your book's cover, which may resonate with them the next time they see it.

Deep discounts also target a core group of big readers, who have a TBR pile - either real or virtual - that is imposing. According to Statista, 39% of Americans read more than 20 books a year. These voracious readers often look for new authors and are likely to buy books when they're discounted, giving them opportunities to try out new authors or to buy back catalog from authors they like. I confess to having a couple hundred of ebooks in my Kindle library that I haven't read yet, but I often dip into these books when I'm looking for something to read and don't have a new book waiting. At £.99p each, it's almost as if the books are free. (Of course, if I add them all up, then it's far from free.)

Your books have a natural life cycle. If you have enough regular readers, and promote your new books via a mailing list and social media, new books will sell well for a month or two, then sales will drop. When you think sales have bottomed out, try a deep discount, and see if that gives you a bump. If you've published several books, take the time to set up a spreadsheet with monthly sales, so you can spot the best time to run discounts. And make sure to promote those discounts on the same channels you use to promote new books. Your existing readers, who may not have all your books, may buy discounted books, and you may pick up new readers. Even though it seems counter-intuitive, discounting your ebooks can be beneficial over the long term.

Kirk McElhearn is a writer, podcaster, and photographer. He is the author of Take Control of Scrivener, and host of the podcast Write Now with Scrivener.

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