Monday, June 5, 2017

The Magic of Price Control for the Indie Author

by Traci Tyne Hilton @TraciTyneHilton

Keys to making price control work for the Indie Author!
It’s no secret by now that to make a living as an indie mid-lister, you have to write, write, write, and write more, and then invest in advertising like it’s an addiction. Indie authors have a magical power called “price control” that sets us apart from traditional authors. It comes with a cost, of course (one I call bookstore invisibility) but price control is what elevates the indie advertising experience. While we can speak at events, sell paperbacks at book tables, hand out bookmarks, and other traditional advertising stuff, we can also say, “Hmmm! I think it’s time to have a sale!” and drop the price of our books.

The challenge, as with all magic, is using your power as effectively as possible.

It all comes back to advertising. You can drop the price of your ebook as often as you want, but if no one knows the book is out there it might not be enough to help sales. You need to combine your sale prices with advertising to get the most bang for your lowered-buck.

I have a series called The Plain Jane Mysteries. It’s done well as a midlist kind of series. It’s fun to write, and it seems to please the cozy mystery reading audience well. The bad news is, it’s getting old. The first few titles are about five years old now, and they hit the old Amazon algorithm with less force than they used to. That’s my fancy way of saying sales are down, and old books are probably the cause.

But, I control the books and their prices, so I’ve taken those first four, older books, and created a box set for them. The specifics: I combined them quickly and easily using Vellum software, create a 3D box set in Photoshop following online tutorials, and begged for reviews.

I don’t usually do that last part, but I wanted to be able to book a Book Bub ad for a box set that was brand new, but Book Bub likes to see reviews. The series has a large audience so I contacted my newsletter subscribers and asked them to review the books, if they had already read them, of course. I love my readers so much, they obliged with 44 reviews!

The price drop I’m taking on this set is significant: one of the titles is permanently free, but the other three sell for $4.99 each. I am going to sell the set for a limited time at 99 cents. Without a Book Bub ad. I'm not nearly as likely to make enough sales to compensate for the price drop.  

The success of this set, for my plans, hinged on that one ad. Having booked the ad, I stacked other ads around it, in the hopes to get the rank of the set as high as possible. There are many ways to make this happen, and one is to have your set in Kindle Unlimited. KU Page reads are added to your sales rank, giving a book in the subscription service an exposure boost. Also,  successful box sets often make most of their money on page reads from Kindle Unlimited subscribers. But I’m ready to develop my audience at the other stores, so my box set has wide distribution.

Wide distribution is also the only way to get on the USA Today best sellers list, so I hear. I won’t lie and say I’m not hoping for that, however, my Book Bub ad is for a Sunday, and the list counts sales from Monday to Sunday. The bulk of my sales from the ad coming at the end of their counting week makes it unlikely for me to hit the list. Still, I stacked some smaller ads in front of the Book Bub just in case. I don’t want to fail for lack of trying, after all. (My current second favorite ad sites include Robin Reads and Fussy Librarian.) The Book Bub ad is for June 4th, if you have the chance, check out the title to see how effective those ads can be.

The book will be discounted to 99 cents for as long as it is earning money and driving sales, and then, like most box sets, it will vanish. Limited time, exclusive, hugely discounted, and thoroughly advertised. These are the keys to making your indie power of price control work for you.

You lose a lot by choosing to independently publish, but you gain price control, and I hope I have illustrated one way in which this is an incredibly powerful tool for an author.

(Want to help me get on the USA Today List? Check out my 99 cent box set at )


Traci Tyne Hilton is the author of The Plain Jane Mysteries, The Mitzy Neuhaus Mysteries and the Tillgiven RomanticMysteries. Traci has a degree in history from Portland State University and still lives in the rainiest part of the Pacific Northwest with her husband the mandolin playing funeral director, two busy kids, and their dogs, Dr. Watson and Archie Goodwin.

More of Traci’s work can be found at


  1. Thanks for hosting me! If anyone was following me last night on Facebook you would see I was pretty giddy--My highest rank before I went to bed was #88 over all at the Amazon store!

    With a Book Bub ad the rank sinks relatively fast--after all, every day they send out a new email, but I am more than happy with the results! I won't know the odds of it hitting a best sellers list until I see how long the good sales hold out. Without being able to count day-of-ad-sales, since they came on Sunday, it will be a challenge, but you never know what may be!

    1. I'm super excited you decided to share this and let us help you! Thanks & Blessings, E

  2. Congrats on the updated ranking! The timing of your post is a "God-thing". I'm a self-pubber and struggle a bit with the question of pricing. I've bookmarked this post and look forward to visiting your site as well, Traci. Thanks!

  3. Great ranking! I've posted a tweet about it that will run until the end of July.

  4. Thanks for the tips. Picked up your set. I have a new release priced at 99¢--I'm watching sales to see how it does and will raise the price when things slow down--much like you suggested above. However, I won't pull it, since it's not a set. I love the idea of taking a set wide. I'm going to remember that for the future!

  5. My apologies! I could have sworn I responded to everyone! Let's just chalk it up to excitement, lol!

    Thanks for the support, encouragement, and picking up copies! It's been fun. It sounds like you all have great stuff going on, too. With price, you just have to play with it. Test, try, research what is going on with the best sellers, and find your sweet spot. Then run ads. :D Nothing an advertising and marketing department of people can't handle for you, lol.

  6. I owe you all such an apology! I've read the comments and responded but my comments keep not posting!

    Thank you all for the support and encouragement! I hope there was useful information for you as you plan and plot for your own books. As an update on the "list" the Sunday placement of the ad dashed my dreams. :D I was definitely short to hit the list with just one day of Book Bub sales to go into the count. But you know what? I'm going to try again (and possibly again and again.)