Sunday, June 10, 2012

Data points

Before the end of the month I’ll be releasing my newest full-length novel, Shooting Star. This book is a bit of a side-step for me. It’s my first foray into the murder-mystery genre. Don’t worry, the erotic romance is still there, but this time with a deadly twist.

In preparation to its release, I did some data-searching using the Kindle store. What is the going price for a nearly-300-page murder-mystery erotic romance with BDSM sex? Not surprisingly, Amazon doesn’t have a bestseller list for that genre.

Instead, I looked at the bestsellers in the Kindle store in three categories: Murder-mystery/thrillers, Erotica and Romance (I thought I remembered a list that was erotic romance but maybe that’s just old age inventing memories for me again!). I made a database, recording the approximate number of pages that Amazon provides, the price of the book and the publisher.

My goal was to find the average price for each of these genre and then use that to guide me. What I discovered, however, gave me quite a surprise.


These books are the longest of the three genre I compared, clocking in at an average of 418 pages per book. Three of those listed were short (under 75 pages)*. Only one of those three was self-published. In fact, of the 20 bestsellers, only six were self-published and the remaining fourteen came from indie or Big Six companies.

*the prices of these three shorts ($1.99, $1.99 and $.99) were not included in the average prices listed below.

The highest price of a traditionally published book was $14.99; the average was $9.71.
The highest price of a self-published book was $3.99; the average was $2.19.


Surprisingly, there was almost an even split between the number of full-length books here and the under-75 page stories. Eight books were under, eleven were full-length and one had no number. The average size of the full-length books was 283 pages; of the short stories, the average length was 42 pages.

Another surprise (okay, not really): only four out of the twenty Top Selling books in the Kindle store on this list were from traditional or indie publishers. Sixteen of the books were self-published.

Highest price of a traditionally published book was $12.99 (there were two at this price).
Highest price of a self-published book was $3.99; the average was $2.54.


Here is where I expected the traditional publishers to reign. Boy, did I get a shock!

Of the top 20, only seven belonged to a traditional publisher. Floored me! And the top three are all E L James’ series. Two others on the list were “ghost” listings for the same books. So 5 of the twenty slots were taken up with the same 3 books. Nora Roberts accounted for two of the remaining four traditionally-published books.

No short works appeared on this list. The top sellers are all full-length books. The average length is 373 pages.

Highest price of a traditionally published book was $14.99; the average was $11.13.
Highest price of a self-published book was $4.99; average was $2.99.

To sum up:

  • 70% of the murder-mystery/thrillers on the Top 20 bestsellers list are traditionally published; these are also the least-expensive in both traditional and self-published choices and have the longest book length. If you’re looking for the biggest bang for your buck, m-m/thrillers are the way to go.

  • 80% of the erotica on the Top 20 bestsellers list are self-published; they, however, are the most expensive in both traditional and self-published choices with the shortest book length of the three genre. Watch out, you’re going to pay for that sex!

  • 68% of the romances on the Top 20 bestsellers list are self-published; for both traditional and self-publishing, they fall in the middle of the pack as far a pricing, but edge a little closer to the murder-mystery/thrillers as far as number of pages.

Remember, I only looked at the Kindle Bestsellers lists. These numbers do not reflect paperback or hardcover books. That will be another study for another day.

Caveat the second: The bestseller lists change hourly so this is snapshot data. One hour in time. That said, I’ve checked the lists several times over the past 24 hrs and the books are still the same as when I collected the data.

Caveat the third: I have no idea if some of the lower prices reflect a current sale on the part of the author or publisher. At least a half-dozen books spread over the three lists were the first in a series and often the first is priced as a gateway drug with a lower price to get people interested. A deeper study would need to be done to see if that has any impact. A deeper study should also gather data over a longer period of time.

So what does it all mean?

A really good question. My conclusions?

Ebooks are cheaper if self-published than if published by one of the traditional presses yet books at prices of $12.99 are still making it onto these lists (and not all at the upper end were well-known authors).

No book on the lists under 75 pages, regardless of genre, cost more than $.99 (Which is exactly what I thought they should be, but the data-junkie in me likes facts to back up my seemingly irrational decisions).

And finally:

I can use Dean Wesley Smith’s philosophy and price my book at $4.99 and not be out of line. It would be slightly higher than the average self-pubbed, but still well within the range of prices that are on the bestsellers lists.

Hope you find the data useful. I had fun compiling it. :)

Play safe,

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