Books by Melissa Bowersock

Monday, August 1, 2016

Price Pulsing: What It Is and How It Sells Books

So you’ve published your book, it’s on every internet book store known to man, you’ve set an affordable price and shouted the word out from the rooftops and now you’re waiting for the money to roll in. But … it doesn’t. What’s up with that?
By now, most of you may have heard of price-pulsing, mentioned here by David Gaughran and on his own blog, as well as other blogs across the internet. It’s a pricing strategy whose time has come, and many of us are using it to advantage.
What is it?
Price-pulsing is the lowering of the price of a book or books for a short promotional period, just like a sale in a store. For a limited time, you price your e-book for $2.99 or 99 cents or even free. Through well-planned promotions, you should see a nice spike on your sales charts, and even after you return the book to full price, you may see more modest sales continue for a time. If you’ve got other titles, you will most likely see some new sales on those, as well. Wait a while, then repeat.
Why does it work?
People love sales. People love deals. They love to feel like they are getting something for less than the normal value. JC Penney stores found out this important fact via a very expensive experiment. You may remember a few years back when Penney’s went to an “everyday price” strategy, pricing their items at what they considered a low everyday price with no sales. Most people realize that regular prices have some inflated value that can, at times, be reduced without obliterating all profit. Penney’s strategy was that if everything in the store was priced at a “sales” price every day, people would flock to the store in droves. Right? Wrong.
From this article entitled Lessons in Pricing Strategy from JC Penney, here’s the gist of how it all shook out:
As you have no doubt read elsewhere, the new pricing strategy never gained traction with consumers. Sales declined steadily over time. The chain lost $3.3 billion in sales in the first year of Johnson’s turnaround plan. Its net loss in the quarter ended Feb 2, 2013, widened to $552 million from $87 million a year earlier. Annual revenue slid 25% to $13 billion, the lowest since at least 1987.
Think about it. If you’re promoting your book, and your message is this:
Hey, buy my book. It’s only $4.99, the same price it is every day, so there’s no advantage to buying it today, it’ll be the same price tomorrow and the next day. Take your time. But buy it. Sometime.
How does that compare if your message is this:
Hey, buy my book. It’s on sale for only 99 cents for a limited time. It’s usually $4.99 so this is a great deal, but hurry; it won’t last long! Buy today!
Which one do you think is going to grab peoples’ attention? No-brainer, right?
At one point I made an effort to align my promotions, blog posts and appearances with my sales to see what worked best, but I quickly learned that splashing a promo out there doesn’t always result in immediate sales. Sometimes all it does is get my name out in front of people, and maybe next time it comes up, they’ll remember me and finally get around to ordering that book. Lynne Cantwell wrote about “effective frequency,” and that’s exactly what I’m talking about. Price-pulsing is an excellent way to get your name out there, promoting a different sales price or perhaps a different book, over and over again. Price-pulsing gives you something to talk about frequently, something that will get your name out there with a different message than just the old, “Buy my book!”
I now run promos with price-pulsing sales whenever I can think of a good reason to do so. On Valentine’s Day, I price-pulse my romance novels. On my birthday, I give presents to my readers and price-pulse a few of another genre, maybe my action-adventures or paranormals. On Halloween, I run a sale on my ghost stories. In this way, even though the core message is the same (“Buy my book!”), it’s couched in a different way: different price, different genre, different celebration. In looking back over my sales, I do definitely see a spike around promo time, but the real pay-off, I believe, is the more modest but steady sales rate that continues long afterward. I may not make a killing at any point, but if I see a few sales every day, week after week, that means I’m succeeding in making readers aware. They know I’m here, they’re buying the sales books and they’re coming back for more.
I’m on their radar and with price-pulsing, I plan to stay there.
Originally published by Indies Unlimited on August 19, 2014.

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