How to Put Your Book on Sale

On Sale Now

Table of Contents:

I. paperback

A. at your CreateSpace eStore

B. at Amazon using CreateSpace

C. at your website

II. e-book

A. with Kindle

B. with Smashwords, Nook, Kobo, etc.

I. paperback

A. at your CreateSpace eStore

  • It’s quick and easy. Just make discount codes.
    • Click on a book from your dashboard to open its project homepage.
    • Select ‘Channels’ on the ‘Distribute’ column.
    • Choose ‘Discount Codes’ under CreateSpace eStore.
    • Look for the ‘click here’ link in the paragraph above the table.
    • This will create a new code. Click ‘View Codes’ to see them all.
    • Copy and paste the code into the table (previous window).
    • Choose dollars off or percentage off.
  • Enter a ridiculous amount, like 99% off, and CS will tell you the maximum discount you can offer. This way, you don’t have to guess or figure it out yourself.
  • If you want to make a royalty on the sale, don’t choose your maximum discount. The smaller your discount, the greater your royalty.
  • (List price — discount) x 0.8 — book cost = royalty. Example: ($7.99 — 20%) x 0.8 — $2.53 = ($7.99 —$1.60) x 0.8 — $2.53 = $6.39 x 0.8 — $2.53 = $5.11 — $2.53 = $2.58.
  • Make sure you are happy with your royalty. If you want to double-check your math, feel free to use the comments section below.
  • You can use the same discount code for multiple books. This makes it easy to put several books on sale for 20% off, for example.
  • However, you must add the discount code to each book separately.
  • Here are some important notes:
    • Customers must sign up for a CreateSpace account. They don’t have to publish a book, but they do need to enter a username and password.
    • Customers know and trust Amazon. Customers who aren’t already familiar with CreateSpace may be reluctant to use it.
    • Customers must pay shipping at CreateSpace. Customers who qualify for free shipping at Amazon might not want to pay for shipping at CreateSpace.
    • Shipping is cheaper when purchasing multiple books. Encourage customers to buy multiple books at CreateSpace to save on shipping.
  • When your sale is over, return to the table of discount codes, check the box to delete the discount, and save your changes.

B. at Amazon using CreateSpace

  • Simply reduce your list price.
  • Customers won’t know that your book is on sale by viewing your product page at Amazon; you’ll have to promote the sale price to spread the word.
  • If you have Expanded Distribution, this will limit the possible discount.
  • You may disable the Expanded Distribution during your sale in order to offer a deeper discount.
  • It can take weeks for your Expanded Distribution changes to propagate throughout the system. Disabling and enabling this channel before and after your sale may create an interesting ripple effect, but if you primarily sell through Amazon, you might not be as concerned about this.
  • The sale price might change in a matter of hours, but according to CreateSpace, it could take up to 5 days for the list price to change at Amazon. This extreme time frame may be unlikely, but if you invest time, effort, or money on a promotion, you’d hate for Murphy’s law to strike.
  • What’s the harm in putting your paperback on sale 5 days early leading up to the big day? Better safe than sorry. When the event is over and you raise the price, if it doesn’t change immediately, it just makes your sale last a little longer.
  • You may be paid a royalty based on the lower list price for some books that sell at the original list price. The royalty payments just after a price change may be based on the lower royalty, even if the book sold at the higher list price. You probably expect to sell many more books at the lower price anyway, so if your promotion is successful, this may be a minor concern.

C. at your website

  • A third option is to sell your book directly: in person, through your website, via PayPal, etc.
  • Advantages:
    • You can potentially draw a higher royalty.
    • This allows you to also make a more enticing discount.
    • If you order stock in advance, you can be sure that the customer is receiving a quality book. Be sure to allow ample time to exchange defects (and to exchange defects of replacements, if needed).
    • Alternatively, you can order your book at CreateSpace and have it drop-shipped  to the customer. No packing ship will reveal sensitive information. You won’t be able to see the book before it ships to prevent the customer from receiving a possible defect, but this way you don’t have to pay shipping twice (though if you order in large quantities, you save on shipping from CreateSpace to you).
  • Disadvantages:
    • You have to deal with the hassles of collecting payments (although PayPal is a convenient option).
    • You have to deal with the hassles of packing and shipping, unless you drop ship.
    • You run the risk of defects if you drop ship.
    • Some customers may be reluctant to purchase directly from you.

II. e-book

A. with Kindle

  • There are three options:
    • KDP Select authors can run a Countdown Deal.
    • KDP Select authors can run a free promotion.
    • Without KDP Select, you can still make a temporary change in list price.
  • Using the new Kindle Countdown Deal:
    • You can’t run both a Countdown Deal and a free promo during the same 90-day enrollment period.
    • The book must be enrolled in KDP Select for 30 days.
    • You must wait 30 days after changing the list price.
    • The regular list price must be at least $2.99 for the US and 1.99 pounds for the UK.
    • The sale price must be at least $1.00 off the regular list price.
    • Customers can see how much they are saving and when the sale ends.
    • If you ordinarily earn 70% royalties, you will still earn 70% even if the promotional list price is under $2.99.
    • If you have a large mobi file size, do the math to see what your royalty will be at the promotional list price; you don’t want to be shocked later.
    • You can’t publish at Smashwords, Kobo, Nook, or any other e-book retailers while enrolled in KDP Select.
  • Using the KDP Select free promo:
    • You can’t run both a Countdown Deal and a free promo during the same 90-day enrollment period.
    • Giving the first book of a series away for free may help to generate sales of other books in your series.
    • You don’t earn any royalties during the free promo; you just hope the promo helps to create exposure and interest afterward.
    • Your sales rank will fall off during the free promo; you need to get sales afterward to improve your sales rank.
    • Many people don’t check out your blurb or Look Inside since it’s free; many people who get your book won’t read it.
    • You must promote your free promo effectively to make the most out of it.
    • The free promo is a good time for bloggers and book reviewers to pick up advance review copies.
    • You also want bloggers and book review sites to feature your free promo before it starts.
    • If your book is 99 cents or at the minimum list price for its file size, the free promo is the only way you can discount your book (other than through price matching).
    • You can’t publish at Smashwords, Kobo, Nook, or any other e-book retailers while enrolled in KDP Select.
  • For those who aren’t in KDP Select:
    • If your book isn’t already at the minimum possible list price, all you need to do is republish your book at the lower list price prior to the sale (it may take 12-24 hours for this to take effect in the US and longer in other countries) and back at the original list price after the sale.
    • Check your converted mobi file size on page 2 of the publishing steps at KDP. If it’s greater than 10 MB, the minimum list price is $2.99 and if it’s greater than 3 MB, the minimum list price is $1.99; otherwise, the minimum list price is 99 cents. You’d hate to promise a sale only to discover later that you can’t do it.
    • Customers won’t know that your book is on sale by viewing your product page at Amazon; you’ll have to promote the sale price to spread the word.

B. with Smashwords, Nook, Kobo, etc.

  • The easiest way to create discounts with Smashwords is with the coupon manager.
    • Go to your dashboard and choose “Coupon Manager.”
    • This allows you to distribute coupons for customers to use.
    • Your list price must be 99 cents or higher (unless you want to use the coupon to make your book free).
    • Coupons only work for Smashwords sales. They do not work at Apple, Nook, Sony, Kobo, etc.
  • Alternatively, you can change your list price.
    • Be sure to also change your list price for Kindle at the same time, otherwise you can get into permanent price match issues. Even then, the big e-reader companies, like Kindle and Nook, like for your list price to be the same, and it’s difficult to synchronize, especially using Smashwords for Nook. If publishing directly with Nook, the price change will occur in about 12-24 hours, so it will be much more in sync with the Kindle list price.
    • The Smashwords list price updates immediately, but other retail channels will take 5 days to multiple weeks to update. This makes it impractical to run a short-term promotion through those channels using Smashwords.
    • If you want to run a short-term promotion and have your book published at a variety of e-book retailers, it’s best to publish your e-book directly with Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and anywhere else that option is available. This way, the prices will update in about 12-24 hours for US sales, keeping your list prices relatively in sync over the course of the promotion.

If you want your sale to be successful, you must promote it effectively. See these articles for more on this:

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Volume 1 (formatting/publishing) and Volume 2 (packaging/marketing), Facebook page, Twitter

Love books? Check out Read Tuesday, a Black Friday event just for books (all authors can sign up for free): website, Facebook page, Twitter

3 comments on “How to Put Your Book on Sale

  1. That last part about promotion seems to be the sticking point a lot of times. I’ve done a few free sales and the best one to date had no promotion. Yet, someone at the same time did a ton of promotion and was at the same level. It’s a mystery to me.

    • There are a lot of factors that complicate the analysis of free promotion effectiveness. For any given book on any given day, promoting it should give it a boost and help it out.

      A more marketable book visible in Amazon searches and on customers also bought lists can get found and surge through the free promotion ranks. Sometimes a second free promotion is less successful, as many people who would have bought it already have it, but not necessarily because of so many variables.

      Another advantage of promoting the book is that this way you can help get more copies into the hands of your target audience (if your promotion is effective at reaching your target audience).

      Changes in Amazon Associates have greatly limited the reach of the free promo, but with many authors switching to the Countdown deal, now there may not be as much competition against other free promos.

      • Listmania helps too. If someone puts your book on one of those lists then you can show up on the page of the other books on the list. The higher someone ranks you, the higher your chance of being the book shown as the face of the list.

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