What Is Price-Pulsing?

price pulsing graphSo you’ve published your book, it’s on every internet book store known to man, you’ve set an affordable price and shouted the word out from the rooftops and now you’re waiting for the money to roll in. But … it doesn’t. What’s up with that?

By now, most of you may have heard of price-pulsing, mentioned here by David Gaughran and on his own blog, as well as other blogs across the internet. It’s a pricing strategy whose time has come, and many of us are using it to advantage.

What is it?

Price-pulsing is the lowering of the price of a book or books for a short promotional period, just like a sale in a store. For a limited time, you price your e-book for $2.99 or 99 cents or even free. Through well-planned promotions, you should see a nice spike on your sales charts, and even after you return the book to full price, you may see more modest sales continue for a time. If you’ve got other titles, you will most likely see some new sales on those, as well. Wait a while, then repeat.

Why does it work?

People love sales. People love deals. They love to feel like they are getting something for less than the normal value. JC Penney stores found out this important fact via a very expensive experiment. You may remember a few years back when Penney’s went to an “everyday price” strategy, pricing their items at what they considered a low everyday price with no sales. Most people realize that regular prices have some inflated value that can, at times, be reduced without obliterating all profit. Penney’s strategy was that if everything in the store was priced at a “sales” price every day, people would flock to the store in droves. Right? Wrong.

From this article entitled Lessons in Pricing Strategy from JC Penney, here’s the gist of how it all shook out:

As you have no doubt read elsewhere, the new pricing strategy never gained traction with consumers. Sales declined steadily over time. The chain lost $3.3 billion in sales in the first year of Johnson’s turnaround plan. Its net loss in the quarter ended Feb 2, 2013, widened to $552 million from $87 million a year earlier. Annual revenue slid 25% to $13 billion, the lowest since at least 1987.

Think about it. If you’re promoting your book, and your message is this:
Hey, buy my book. It’s only $4.99, the same price it is every day, so there’s no advantage to buying it today, it’ll be the same price tomorrow and the next day. Take your time. But buy it. Sometime.

How does that compare if your message is this:
Hey, buy my book. It’s on sale for only 99 cents for a limited time. It’s usually $4.99 so this is a great deal, but hurry; it won’t last long! Buy today!

Which one do you think is going to grab peoples’ attention? No-brainer, right?

At one point I made an effort to align my promotions, blog posts and appearances with my sales to see what worked best, but I quickly learned that splashing a promo out there doesn’t always result in immediate sales. Sometimes all it does is get my name out in front of people, and maybe next time it comes up, they’ll remember me and finally get around to ordering that book. Lynne Cantwell wrote about “effective frequency,” and that’s exactly what I’m talking about. Price-pulsing is an excellent way to get your name out there, promoting a different sales price or perhaps a different book, over and over again. Price-pulsing gives you something to talk about frequently, something that will get your name out there with a different message than just the old, “Buy my book!”

I now run promos with price-pulsing sales whenever I can think of a good reason to do so. On Valentine’s Day, I price-pulse my romance novels. On my birthday, I give presents to my readers and price-pulse a few of another genre, maybe my action-adventures or paranormals. On Halloween, I run a sale on my ghost stories. In this way, even though the core message is the same (“Buy my book!”), it’s couched in a different way: different price, different genre, different celebration. In looking back over my sales, I do definitely see a spike around promo time, but the real pay-off, I believe, is the more modest but steady sales rate that continues long afterward. I may not make a killing at any point, but if I see a few sales every day, week after week, that means I’m succeeding in making readers aware. They know I’m here, they’re buying the sales books and they’re coming back for more.

I’m on their radar and with price-pulsing, I plan to stay there.

Author: Melissa Bowersock

Melissa Bowersock is the award-winning author of twelve novels and one non-fiction title. She lives in a small community in northern Arizona. Learn more about Melissa from her Amazon author page and her blog.

20 thoughts on “What Is Price-Pulsing?”

  1. Excellent post, as usual, Melissa. I’m willing to employ any strategy that might work–even if it does only give me a temporary bump! The idea is to get out there and get noticed, no matter how many times you keep trying.

  2. Melissa! You nailed it. Price pulsing works. It is a time suck to plan those
    promos but worth it. I do want to put out new work. I put that on standby though to learn how to price pulse, run Free and KCDs. Because I see authors with six or ten books…and churning out more books as fast as they can…meanwhile their published titles live on Amazon–never on a Kindle because those book are not promoted. David’s book Let’s Get visible and
    Martin Crosbie’s books are my indie bibles. I read them and reread them, because early on I didn’t have clue what they were talking about. Now I do.
    Great post. Okay–now go design a car with a front door or under dash hook for our purses. I think Melanie is doing parking lots. Both of you rock.

    1. Thanks so much, Jackie. I think you’re right–I think a lot of writers concentrate on the latest and just hope (pray) that it will lead readers to their back list, but why not get that whole list out there front and center? My oldest book is 30 years old, but I still like it, I still think it’s a good book and I still promo it and all my others periodically. And it still sells. Can’t beat that.

      1. Oh! Melissa! You made my day! A thirty-year-old book is still selling. Good stories and fine writing does it! So are my titles–all from my backlist, 25 and 30 year old books. Absolutely they needed a bit of revising, an editor and a formatter and professional cover–even a title change. When I started I got no encouragement. I was told flat out by two editors and a half a dozen authors, they won’t sell. Well, they do sell. And readers have posted more than 625 reviews. Of those reviews, only 32 are snarky. Same reviewers, looks like. I don’t give fig. I’m having a great time and every time I price pulse, the books find new readers. Works for me. And you, too!

        1. Jackie, I too have edited, changed covers and even titles over the years, fine-tuning whenever it’s appropriate. I love your story about being told your books wouldn’t sell (and you proving them wrong). My agent, about 27 years ago, told me to quite writing westerns because they didn’t sell, but those were what my first two books were and they were selling just fine. I’ve learned to be wary of any “experts” telling me what I should or shouldn’t do. I’ll give just about anything a try and see what my own experience is.

    1. Okay, Leigh, time to be brave! After all, what can it hurt? And you just might find out it does some good. Go for it. BTW, I named one of my favorite characters Leigh in my western romance, Superstition Gold. She learned to be brave, too!

  3. I have to be honest, Melissa, I used to think all that price pulsing stuff was time consuming, hit and miss, hooey. I’m looking, or should I say re-looking, at quite a few things, in regard to marketing, that I have previously held negative views about; this is yet another one in the mix.

    Thank you for this post, Melissa.

    1. TD, the only part that really takes the time is the promoting, and that’s never-ending for us. But this does two things for us: it introduces us to new readers every time we do a promo, and reinforces our name to those who have heard of us before but maybe haven’t made the leap yet. That’s a win-win in my book.

  4. Thanks, Melissa. Great post. I love the JC Penney example. I had missed Lynne Cantwell’s article, so thanks for that link. I’ve scheduled my first “price pulse” for Sept 19th. Fingers crossed :-).

    1. Pete, glad I could steer you to some helpful info. When you think about Lynne’s post, it makes perfect sense (we’re just not usually aware of it). And when you think about sales, we all know that Wal-Mart has the cheapest prices any day of the week and yet, they still have weekly sales. We’re just a bargain-hunting culture! Thanks for commenting.

  5. That “effective frequency” post is the gift that keeps on giving. 😀 Thanks for the shout-out, Melissa, and thanks for a great post of your own. I need to do more price-pulsing myself.

  6. iUniverse won’t reduce the price or even give out coupons. I asked. I have a new book in the hands of an editor and will publish it on Amazon. Eventually I hope to take all my books back from iUniverse and publish with Amazon. Was new and uneducated about publishing when I wrote those. Will follow your excellent advice.

    1. Sandy, I was with iUniverse with a couple of my early books, too, after the rights reverted back to me. At the time, it was about the only self-pub option available for a decent price. It’s not difficult to cancel your contracts with them, though, and it’s worth the trouble to publish yourself through CreateSpace. Gives you 100% control over pricing.

      1. I know, Melissa. I asked them one day and they said since I retained all rights I just had to notify them in writing. I am polishing up the manuscripts. Finding mistakes and the like.

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