Monday, 8 February 2010
Full disclosure: "Spoils of War", 24hr sales result (part two)
Okay, here are the results of my 24hrs experiment of giving away "Spoils of War" for free, if readers choose to take it for free.
Checking my "dashboard" at www.smashwords.com, in the last 24hrs:
- 37 people downloaded the free sample (30% of the story).
- out of these 17 people bought it
In this case, "buying" only means they downloaded the complete story and made the decision how much they are willing to pay for it, which includes "nothing".
So, 37 people were happy to check the stuff out, and 17 were interested enough to want the whole thing. Brilliant.
I think that's a roaring success for 24hrs in the e-book space, for authors whom hardly anybody knows yet. :)
Let's look at the 17 people who "bought" the story.
I have to admit I was a little nervous again here. The first several emails were people taking stuff for free. At email number 5 I thought "fuck this shit, I'm changing the option to fixed price and charge $0.99, that would have been $4.95, demnit!"). Then I had the first sale. Somebody paid $5.00 for the story. That's the price for an ebook novel. And that person paid enough that, had I charged $0.99 and HAD those "free downloaders" paid $0.99, I would have been $0.05 worse off. Now, that was weird.
I agreed with my skeptical voice (and my number-crunching partner) that 5 people is a tiny sample, so I let the sales roll and watched and did nothing.
End result after 24hrs: 17 people bought it; out of these, 10 people took it for free, 7 people paid.
I repeat: seven people choose to pay without being forced or controlled. Wow.
Let's look at what they were willing to pay. Interestingly, my seven paying customers chose one of three prices:
1) $0.99 (the absolute mininum, paid by 2)
2) $3.00 (hefty price for a short story, and WELL above what I thought I could charge for a short story, paid by 3)
3) $5.00 (that's about the price of a novel, and humbled me. Five dollars? To read a short story? Paid by 2)
Nothing in between. Interestingly, not ONE chose a price like $1.29 or $1.79 or even $1.99 that I had calculated with.
It tells me also I have at least five "fans" out there that pay well more than I would have expected, and those five people deserve my love and gratitude. Same with the $0.99 people. They paid even though they don't have to, out of an appreciation for writing, the hard work that went into the story and cover, and as a gesture of goodwill.
Thank you, guys. Thank you so much. You warmed my cynical little heart.
How does this translate into "profit"?
From this, we made $20.98 - in one day, mind you, by giving away 30 free samples and getting 7 paying customers. Now, minus what Smashwords takes as a cut, we have $15.52 in the pocket. Out of this, we'll have to split 50/50, and I have to pay 20% UK tax on royalties.
In the logic of "the free market forces", 17 people paid $21 dollars for it, which equals an average of $1.23. If I take out the "free downloaders" (EDIT to say: "freeloader" was a pun on "free downloaders" but I've been told it's demeaning, so I'm changing the term), the price these supporters were willing to pay is $3.00. One is my "earnings per customer", the other is "earnings per sale".
Consequently, the "fair value" for my story is somewhere between $1.23 and $3.
(Now, this posits that people would have been willing to be charged that much - meaning, were they more generous out of generosity, like somebody buying an overpriced Christmas card because 20% of the sales go to Oxfam? But those factors make the whole calculation more difficult, and I have no way of veryfying this)
What do I learn from this?
That there are readers/fans who appreciate us/our work more than I thought. I can only explain those prices they paid with maybe them feeling they don't pay so much for goods but show their support to their writers and love for a good, quality story.
That there are people who are happy supporting their writers.
That a surprising amount of people are willing to pay even though nobody controlls them.
Why then will I introduce a "fixed price" for "Spoils of War" in the mid-term?
Because I firmly believe in global distribution. The story needs to be able to get out there and reach as many people as possible (yes, Kindle and Amazon and Apple and iTunes and iBook and whatever). But that distribution model doesn't support "choose your own price". In fact, were I not to charge a fixed amount on that distribution model, the system would set the price for "Spoils of War" to $4.95, which, we can agree, is pretty damn steep for a short story.
In the meantime, if you would like to read "Spoils of War", go ahead and download it. It's free. Unless you choose to make it not free, but I'm not controlling you or forcing you. I put it out there, that's my job done.
But a dollar in the hat would be very much appreciated.