How a short-term Bookbub discount can bring you long-term fans happy to pay full price

Short-term discounts can bring you long-term readers willing to pay higher prices once they know and like your books.

Bookbub’s latest research has been looking at the relationship between discount price and the result of how many people buy a discounted book after clicking through to its product page.

It suggests that higher prices may put off readers who showed initial interest in a book by clicking on the link to the product page from moving on to buying the book.

It says many readers aren’t so influenced by price when it comes to authors they already know and like, so you could be losing long-term fans who would spend money on your books in the future if they did buy and read the discounted title.

BookBub says it tracks both retailer clicks and sales of all the titles it features and it’s found that a book’s average click-through rate falls as the price goes up and the conversion rate also falls.

The chart below illustrates this trend:

Chart courtesy of Bookbub

A similar pattern was revealed when Bookbub looked at titles within individual genres.

The research also compared books published by independent authors against books from traditional publishers. Conversion rate again dropped off with price but the trend was less noticeable for indies beyond the $1.99 price point. The firm says this could be down to the fact that many of the more expensive indie books it features are top-selling box sets, which could skew the data with unusually high conversions.

Bookbub doesn’t give the exact figures for the conversion rates and the charts are built in 25% increments so it’s difficult to work out the real numbers, but on the chart shown above (Average Conversion Rate by Price) it looks like around 35% conversion at $0.99, dipping by only about 5% to 30% or thereabouts at $1.99, and down by 5% again to 25% at $2.99.

Those figures show less of a difference than I would have expected, as I thought there would be a greater drop-off from $0.99.

Authors have pointed out that even at lower conversions, the higher prices would bring in considerably more revenue than the more popular $0.99 discount. It might also be that authors could benefit in the longer term by initially attracting readers willing to pay $2.99 rather than the ‘try anything once’ discount dealers at $0.99.

However, Bookbub is claiming that taking a short-term hit, even with these relatively small conversion differentials, can result in long-term benefits as your books get known by a wider audience who are then likely to pay full whack when your next books come out as you’ll be an author who’s recognized and liked by them.

The big problem here for indie authors is that low returns from $0.99 offers (with the Amazon royalty set at only 30% at that price) means there really has to be a big surge in sales from a promotion because Bookbub certainly doesn’t come cheap.

For example, the company now has an astonishing three million subscribers in the Mystery category. It costs $435 to promote a free book to the Mystery list and that doubles to $870 for a book priced at less than $1, rises to $1,515 for books at $1-$2, and hits $2,175 for books priced over $2.

Bookbub says the average number of downloads for a free Mystery book are 34,600 while the average sold across all the price points is 3,830 within a range of 550 to 9,060. It surprises me that the take-up is so low as 34,600 free downloads represents only 1.1% of the three million total subscribers, which makes me wonder just how engaged that list is, while the 3,830 paid average is 0.12% of three million.

It is possible to make a decent profit on Bookbub promotions, although it’s also easy to make a hefty loss. You pays yer money and you takes yer choice on whether an ‘investment’ now will pay off later down the line.

I’m not going to even to attempt to do the math here as it’s all obviously up in the air and a matter of conjecture but it’s an interesting addition to the never-ending debate of ebook pricing for indie authors.

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