Ebook Battle for Control of my Mind and the Price of Clarkesworld

We’ve been publishing $2.99 ebook editions of Clarkesworld Magazine for a while now. Why $2.99? Well, Amazon and B&N, our two biggest resellers, have a tiered royalty system that provides publishers with an incentive to do so.

Amazon
70% royalty (minus delivery fee) for books priced between $2.99 and $9.99, 35% royalty for everything else
B&N.com 65% royalty for books priced between $2.99 and $9.99, 40% royalty for everything else

I’m not terribly distressed by the $2.99 price point. It’s less than a gallon of gas or a 2 liter bottle of Coke, but then again, when I turn on the TV, I get barraged by commercials for $1 Value Meals. Is $1 the magic number? It certainly doesn’t indicate quality, but it is popular. I was talking with a friend about all this and they issued a challenge… "You offer more quality than a Value Meal. Lower your price to 99 cents and you’ll kick ass!" The idea has been festering in my head since. (Or maybe that was the cold I’m just recently over.)

$0.99 for an issue of a Hugo-Winning magazine.

The logical/mathematical side of my brain is screaming, NO, NO, NO, we would have to sell nearly 6 times as many books at Amazon and 5 times as many at B&N.com to maintain our current income. We need that money… Then the not-so-logical side of my brain (the one that decided to launch a magazine) steps up to the mic:

DO IT.

The two side slugged it out for a few days before eventually coming to a compromise. The result: it’s time for an experiment. For one month, at our two biggest resellers, we will be selling copies of issue 54 for 99 cents each. At  the end of the month, I’ll look at the results and determine whether or not this will be our new list price.

Will our special value meal of quality SF&F be worth a buck to enough people to make this price change workable? With the short window I’ve set for this experiment, I’m going to have to count on our friends and readers for a little help. Please spread the word, near and far, electronically and in person…

Clarkesworld #54, only 99 cents @

Amazon (Kindle, Mobi)
B&N.com (epub, Nook, Sony, iPad)

I’ll let you know what happens.

25 thoughts on “Ebook Battle for Control of my Mind and the Price of Clarkesworld

  1. wyrmadmin says:

    We don’t sell large quantities of ebooks, but it is big enough to make a noticeable (and important) contribution to our operating expenses. People will pay a reasonable price for convenience of having a nicely formatted ebook or physical book, even if the material is available for free in another format. I’m sure that some people are buying them as a show of support. Not everyone likes donating, so buying is the next best thing. Always nice to have something tangible for your money. (Yes, I consider ebooks tangible.)

    Personal issues caused all of Wyrm’s 2010 projects to be delayed. I’m working securing cover art and scheduling the third volume now.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am a subscriber of Clarkesworld, Lightspeed and Fantasy Magazine. All of them are available for free but I prefer buying the epub files. It saves me time (otherwise I’d have to download and/or convert the stories) and I also want to contribute to keep these wonderful magazines running.

  2. suricattus says:

    I’ve been test-driving magazines on the new Nook, so this is perfect timing. Assuming your formatting is better than the last one I d/l’d (a Name magazine that looked like digital monkeys had been typesetting) you’ll have me hooked.

  3. temporus says:

    Bought.

    If I may be a tad honest, $2.99 per issue is what I pay for Asimov’s per issue. And there’s more content per issue. And I get the Asimov’s delivered automatically to me every month. (Of course, there’s some negatives to that too, such as they try to force me to expire all my issues after a few months, and they aren’t as portable between devices as they should be. Actually makes me glad now that you guys never made it into the official Magazine market.)

    • wyrmadmin says:

      That expiration thing really bugs me and is something I’ve reported back as a negative to them. Amazon is treating magazines like newspapers. It’s a big mistake.

      • Anonymous says:

        I buy Asimov’s from fictionwise.com It is a bit more expensive (3.99$) but it comes in a great variety of formats and with no DRM which means no expiration dates and no portability issues.

        • wyrmadmin says:

          Fictionwise isn’t taking new clients. Last year they shut down the application process and included a comment that indicated they’d have news available last summer. I think this is probably a result of them being purchased by BN.

  4. charlesatan says:

    Hi Neil. Just mentioning that both those outlets only increases your demographic in the US. Amazon charges me an extra $2.00 (as I’m outside US) while B&N doesn’t sell outside of US outright. So experiment–if it works–is just in the US (then again, majority of your paying readers might be in the US).

    • wyrmadmin says:

      Yes, the US and a few other countries (Canada, UK, etc.). If the experiment works (I did target our two largest outlets) then it will change in all stores, including our own.

        • wyrmadmin says:

          The problem with the iBookstore is that they are insisting on ISBNs for everything, even magazines. Reports from other publishers indicate poor sales there, so the combination is very discouraging.

          Interesting story. Considering that there are many 99 cent books, his case is very unusual and probably has more to do with marketing than price. Marketing is problematic for ebooks. We’re all still trying to figure out what works. The signal-to-noise ratio is so high that it is hard to raise awareness of your product.

          • skidspoppe says:

            Makes sense re iBooks – just does make it easier for those of us overseas. As it is, I have someone in the states “buy” my books on BN.com and then I can download it from my Library wherever I am in the world, which is a simple workaround if there’s someone you trust in the States.

            And is there anything else we can do to help boost the signal? I already posted on facebook…

          • wyrmadmin says:

            We also sell epub and mobi/kindle copies through Weightless Books, Wizard’s Tower and through our own store on the Wyrm Publishing site. No fees for overseas customers at those sites. We’ll lower the prices there too if this experiment works out.

            Thanks for posting to Facebook! Comments on forums, book sites, and adding reviews or stars to our ebooks (at Amazon or BN) can also be quite helpful.

  5. Anonymous says:

    reside in Aus – was able to purchase through Amazon (can’t use B&N) and convert to epub through calibre for import to my sony. Looks great.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Wend to Wizard’s Tower to buy the latest issue (as I do every now and then) and was quite surprised to see that the lowe price-point seems to only apply to the Kindle and Nook stories. I’m sure you have your reasons for doing this, but I would have thought it would have given a better result to see if the sales overall would increase to give you more revenue, not just on the two most expensive platform. In other words, “indie” sales might, if grown, make up a bit of the Amazon & B&B expenses to increase the total.

    • wyrmadmin says:

      I’m focusing on the venues that triggered the list price we use. If we change our price, it needs to work there or it won’t work at all. I’d love it if our indie sales were higher, but even if they grew ten-fold, it wouldn’t be enough to offset potential losses at Amazon and B&N. Like it or not (I don’t), these two are currently driving our price point.

      At this time, I think there may be a follow-up experiment. Expect that one to be a bit broader in scope.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Just purchased the issue today

    Which I’ve never done in the past.

    $10ish for a year subscription delivered directly to Kindle would ensure I wouldn’t forget any issues, and be worth it over free on the website; I’d still come occasionally to browse the artwork in color, though.

    It is doable without going through Amazon Magazines. InterGalactic Medicine Show is doing something similar, where subscribers register their Kindle email address, set the IGMS email to “allow” on Amazon, then issues come through with one click of a button directly to Kindle.

  8. kellbrown says:

    Thoughtless

    As I scrolled down reading over $2.99 I considered it, weighing supporting the SF short market vs. say the cost of a regular ebook and even though I was checking the TOC and debating it but I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to buy. As soon as I saw $0.99 I stopped looking at for the TOC, I even skipped looking at the cover (Always a highlight w/ClarkesWorld) and I hit the buy button (KIndle for iPhone/iPad).

    At $0.99 I don’t even really care if it turns out to be lame issue (or what those with tact might call, ‘not to my taste’). Hell, with the Canadian dollar where it is right now it’s not even $0.99. For that price I can buy it just for the cover art to use as wall paper on my computer.

    About the only problem with the $0.99 price is that I didn’t know about it until I read it in a tweet you put out an hour ago. I don’t want to advocate any kind of spam, especially twitter self-promoting spam but next time make sure you step up the advertising a little.

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