On "Good Morning America" today, the "Play of the Day" featured a chimpanzee who is able to memorize the locations of randomly-placed numbers. He can handle as many as 19 numbers, even when he sees them for less than a second. I need that chimp!
The numbers popping up all around me this morning are book prices -- my own book prices -- which have been changing and bouncing around without warning. When I began to plan for the book launch of "The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese," I decided to reduce the prices of all the books on my website. Now, understand that we're just talking about trade paper copies of the books. (To get electronic editions, you have to go elsewhere.) So I took $3.00 (a nice round number) off both of my self-published books and offered free shipping. I already had cut the price of "A Scratch with the Rebels" in half because the remaining copies in my inventory have been laying around here for almost 5 years. I finished editing the website to reflect the new prices, and sat back, satisfied with my decisions.
Then up popped a couple of moles. First, Amazon lowered the price of of one of those books by 28%, making the paper version of "Mouse" a strange $9.32. Several days later, they lowered "Beyond All Price" by 15%, to $12.78. At that point, one of my special offers was lower than theirs, while the other was higher. Sales were doing a little better than I had expected, so I decided to leave well enough alone.
Ah, but we weren't through. I had set the price of "Mouse" on both Smashwords and Amazon at $0.99, which should have been appealing to budget-minded folks, but apparently wasn't. Meanwhile, the publisher of my 2007 history, "A Scratch with the Rebels" enrolled that book in the Kindle Select program and opted to take their free days right now. They're doing amazingly well. The Kindle free version has popped up at #2 in Civil War history, bested only by a version of Lincoln's Gettysburg address! But "Mouse" is suffering from the competition.
There's only one solution to competing with a free book (even one of my own!). I have now listed "Mouse" on Smashwords for free. Will Amazon follow suit? Probably. They don't like being undersold. But when will that change occur? I have no way of telling. I'm just sitting here, waiting for that particular mole to pop up.
In my days of traditional academic publishing, I could release a book and sit back, knowing exactly what was going on -- a set price and standard distribution channels. But self-publishing? Wow! It's a constant challenge to keep up with the changes. Wonder how I contact that chimp!