Day-Job-Quitting Numbers

JOE KONRATH POSTS a guest article from Elle Lothlorien. (Great pen name, that.) In it, the author affirms something I’ve thought all along — a price is a signal with a great deal of metadata attached. One datum in that package is the perception of the value the author and/or publisher places on the work.

Keep in mind that by December I was charging $5.99 per book and keeping $4.19 per book. In January my royalties on Amazon alone were close to $3,500. Now, these aren’t New York Times best-seller numbers, but they’re comfortable, mid-list bestseller numbers.

Here’s what else they are: Day Job Quitting Numbers. I made $3,200 a month after taxes as a clinical research administrator. By January, my book royalties from Amazon began to approach the net monthly salary from my Day Job (but keep in mind that you have to pay royalty taxes on book royalties). And those totals do not include sales on Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, or any of the other digital reader platforms, nor do they include paperback sales through CreateSpace.

Here’s what I suspect was happening: At $5.99 you just bought the literary equivalent of a cup of Starbuck’s coffee. Your customer wants to like it. After all, they’ve read the reviews and it looks like everyone else liked it, right? If they get through the first few chapters and begin to suspect that the book just isn’t for them, they’re very likely to return it for a refund. Hey, six dollars is six dollars. And if they do like it, they want to jump on the review bandwagon and let everyone else know just how much they liked it.

At $0.99, the reader isn’t as heavily “invested” in your novel. If they didn’t like it, they may not bother to return it to get their dollar back. Instead they’ll find their way to your review page and let you have it by way of a negative review.

For authors with one book, it’s worth considering creating “imputed value” first with higher pricing. With a decent novel, this will “prime the pump” with positive reviews from readers who are invested and who want to like your book. This in turn will lead to more sales.


Note that going this route is going to require a professional cover and hopefully, a top-notch, expertly proofed book underneath. If you’re going to assert your quality through pricing, you have to be just as attractive as the known quality leaders in the market.

Just don’t disappoint after the sale.

–Commenter Mike Langlois

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