eBook Discounting May Increase Sales But It’s Getting Competitive

Strategic discounting on eBooks can help raise sales rankings, but the competition is getting stiff. At least according to publishing experts who spoke at theDigital Book World conference in New York today.

As Marcus Leaver, CEO of The Quatro Group, pointed out, “We have to make sure that we aren’t just lowering prices for the sake of lowering prices. There has to be something more strategic about it.”

One way to discount strategically is to partner with retailers when you discount an eBook. Barnes & Noble promoted Nicholas Sparks’ book Safe Haven on the Nook landing page when Grand Central dropped the price of the 2010 title in 2012. The book’s sales creeped up every time the publisher lowered the price. When it went from $7.99 to $5.99, the book’s sales ranking went up and when the price dropped to $3.99 its ranking got even higher. “When a price drop is significant and the retailer gets behind it, it is almost always successful,” said Dan Lubart, principal at Iobyte Solutions.

Publishers looking for the right price for an eBook should be willing to test and experiment. And keep in mind, that, “free is not a business model,” according to Gary Gentel, president of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. But Gentel did admit that discounting eBooks helped increase sales at his company. He explained that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the U.S. and in the UK have run Amazon “Deal of the Day” promotions which have helped get higher sales rankings and  turn generated lo sales. “I thought, you can’t sell that wonderful book at that price, but not only did we sell that book, but it then went back to a higher price and kept selling and the aggregate number got much better,” he explained.

But discounting is getting more competitive these days. While last year a Kindle Daily Deal would keep a book on Amazon’s bestsellers list for almost a week after the promotion ended, nowadays a book only lasts about 2-4 days on the bestsellers list before dropping off. Still, the halo effect has not diminished. “It is still a win, there is just more promotion going on now in general, more noise trying to grab a reader’s attention,” said Lubart.

Discounting is not for everyone. Karen Lotz, CEO of Candlewick Press said that while some publishers offer discounts to try to move units, it may not be worth it in the long run. She said that eBook pricing is a, “balancing act in investing in marketing and making prices very attractive.”