Analyzing the Behavior of Book Buyers Pt 5 – Price

See Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 of this series.

If a browser reads your sample and likes it, he’s going to buy it, right?  Nope.  You still have one big hurdle to clear — price.  A few thoughts on the subject:

  • Price isn’t necessarily the last thing the browser considers.  It’s a factor that can lose you the sale at any point during the process.  It might even be the first thing the potential buyer examines.
  • Sometimes, setting price is about maximizing profit.  Selling fewer books at a higher margin may bring you more money than selling a lot at a smaller margin.
  • Sometimes, setting price is about exposure.  In the long run, getting a sample of your work into the hands of as many people as possible may outweigh short term profit.
  • A price point that is too low may indicate to the potential customer that your work is substandard.
  • A price point that is too high may provide the potential customer with too little value.
  • It used to be that setting a price of $.99 drove lots of sales.  Changes in the way that Amazon calculates category rankings and a certain stigma attached to low-priced ebooks may have eliminated the advantages of this price point.

Since I discovered indie authors, my behavior towards book buying has changed:

  • Unless the book is part of a series that I absolutely love, like the upcoming A Memory of Light or the latest in John Ringo’s Troy Rising series, I’m going to wait for the price to fall.  I’m not going to pay $12.99 even for Brent Weeks’ latest book.  I simply do not think I’ll enjoy it four times more than a recommended indie authors’ work.
  • I can live with $7.99 for an established author or the continuation of a series that I’m reading.  Even with a strong recommendation, I’m not going to pay that much to try someone new.  Case in point – Terry Ervin recommended Angie Lofthouse’s Defenders of the Covenant, but it’s priced at $7.99.  If the price drops, I’ll buy it, but I’m simply not willing to pay that much at the moment for someone I’ve never read.
  • If a book even halfway sounds interesting, I won’t blink at paying $2.99.

My main takeaway from analyzing pricing is that an author should experiment.  It’s so easy to change your price and see what happens.  If you’re doing well at $2.99, does $3.99 hurt your bottom line?  If not, increase it another dollar.  If so, drop it back down.

Please feel free to share your experiences as either a buyer or a seller in the comments section.  Look for the final part of this series summarizing my analysis next Monday.

Review of Blood Sword

In Blood Sword, Mr. Ervin continues the tale of Flank Hawk and his desperate attempts to fulfill his duty and save his kingdom.  This time, he has to journey back to the Colonel of the West to get the Blood Sword back.

Why to buy this book:  If you’re reading a review of the second book in a series, you probably a) already read the first and enjoyed it and b) want to make sure that author didn’t totally screw the pooch with the sequel.  Good news!  Mr. Ervin did just fine.  More action, more battles, more crazy fantasy creatures.  The book is the logical continuation of the saga.  On a personal note, I was gratified to see much fewer references to the name “Road Toad,” so “yay” for me.  I also like two of the new characters – a young stable hand and the daughter of an enchantress.  I hope they both stay around for the rest of the series.

Why not to buy the book: Flank Hawk seemed bigger than this book, not lengthwise but regarding scope.  I think it’s because the first book concentrated on a lot of huge battles whereas the action in this book seems more spread out and the fights more isolated.

Bottom Line: I liked Flank Hawk better than Blood Sword, but this is still a solid read and a good continuation of the series.  4 Stars.


Five Areas to Consider before Joining a Writing Critique Group

Today, we’re honored to have Terry W. Ervin II as a guest blogger.  He is an English teacher who enjoys writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. He is an editor for the speculative fiction magazine MindFlights and a guest contributor to Fiction Factor, an ezine for writers.

 Gryphonwood Press released FLANK HAWK and BLOOD SWORD, the first two fantasy novels in Terry’s First Civilization’s Legacy Series in 2009 and 2011. Look for the third novel in the series (SOUL FORGE) in early 2013 and the release of GENRE SHOTGUN, his first short story collection, in November 2012. 

Now, on with the post:

One useful activity a writer can engage in to improve his work is participation in a writing critique group.  While active participation in a crit group (whether online or in person) can take a significant amount of time and effort, the payoff can be well worth it—if the author finds the right crit group.

I suggest five areas to consider before stepping forward and joining a crit group.

1.  Motivated Writers

Being around other writers can be infectious. But, if one is going to spend time with a group of writers for support, insight, and advice, the focus should be the discussion of members’ writing projects. The writers in a crit group should have goals, and each member should be actively working to achieve those goals. A goal may be as simple as finishing a novel by a certain date, or achieving the submission of three short stories for publication by the New Year.

An effective crit group isn’t a social club. While friendships may form, the group’s main focus should be on writing. This may include networking, discussions on market trends, and sharing research in addition to reading and critiquing writing submitted by members for evaluation.  Keeping the atmosphere professional and on track will promote what the group was formed for in the first place—to improve writing and achieve goals. A professional, writing-focused, goal-oriented structure also makes it easier to dismiss a member for failing to live up to group expectations.

2.  Minimum Requirements

A crit group should have established minimum participation requirements. Clear guidelines (some would call rules) regarding submissions for member evaluation and guidelines for critiques are essential. Having them reduces misunderstandings and hard feelings. Guidelines should be structured to keep every member an active participant as well restricting one or two writers from dominating the group’s time and effort. The guidelines (or rules) must be enforced, including a mechanism for removing members that fail to meet the established guidelines. A method to alter or amend the guidelines should be included when the group forms. As any longstanding group will have some turnover, a clear procedure for adding new members is important as well.

A writer may argue that lists of rules are unnecessary. They inhibit creativity and the free flow of ideas. They are tools which an unhappy member can use to bludgeon other members over the head.  In reality, well-crafted guidelines will insure a fair, stable, and smooth-running group. If members continually reference a guideline infraction, either it was an ill-conceived rule in need of modification or they have a legitimate point.

3.  At the Same Level

While it may initially appear a blessing for an aspiring writer to be among a group of accomplished pros, the disparity in writing ability can easily become a barrier for success. How much will the aspiring writer be able to constructively contribute?  What weight will the aspiring writer’s input carry? A crit group should be a benefit to all members. Will the pro writers become bored with the aspiring writer’s efforts and frustrated at the time it takes to critique writing far below their current ability? Such disparity can lead to discontent among members, disrupting the effectiveness of the group.

This is not to say that varying levels cannot work. If the less experienced writers submit stimulating and interesting work and are quick learners, and if the more experienced writers are able to garner useful insight from the less experienced members, it can work. These, however, are major ifs.

4.  Good Mixture

Strong crit groups have well-read participants with a range of experiences and opinions. This variety of views and input is invaluable to a writer. Some things like punctuation, clear antecedents, internal consistency, and proper dialogue tags are straight forward. A writer can read his work a dozen times and still overlook these things. Other areas such as pace, plot structure, and characterization are more subjective. It’s up to the writer as to which suggestions and modifications they will implement.

While some writers work in pairs with a single dedicated critique partner, a crit group can be more valuable due to its broader range of experience and input.

5.  Interest Writing

One thing that should not be overlooked by a writer interested in a crit group is that the works of the other writers must be of interest to him. While the writing itself may be solid, there is little worse than having to read and carefully analyze something that totally disinterests the reader. A reader who favors hard science fiction may have trouble working through a classic whodunit mystery or a steamy romance.

Many crit groups are genre focused in an effort to avoid this issue.  They may consist of only fantasy, science fiction, mystery, horror, or romance writers. A writer who works in multiple genres or writes stories that straddles genres may have some concerns. But, in general, good writing that contains elements of a crit group’s specific genre focus is welcome.


Membership in a critique group can have lasting benefits beyond the immediate assistance and opportunity for growth and development offered. Just be aware before joining one and don’t hesitate to move on if a group is dysfunctional or is proving to be less than beneficial. Beyond being a drag on motivation, among other aspects of writing, every moment dedicated to crit group participation is one less minute available to focus on a writing project. The time and effort put into the group has to be worth the input and assistance obtained from it.

 To contact Terry or learn more about his writing endeavors, visit his website at: and his blog, Up Around the Corner, at

Review of Flank Hawk

In Flank Hawk, Mr. Ervin introduces to a future in which fantasy creatures and magic have become commonplace.  What happens when the necromancer uses the doomed souls of Nazis to reintroduce technology?  It’s up to a young man from a small village to put his life on the line to save everyone.

Why to buy this book: 1. The character arc reminded me a lot of The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon, and I’m a sucker for that type of story.  2. The book is epic fantasy at its finest, featuring the struggle of good against evil.  3. The writing is, overall, good.  Mr. Ervin draws you into the story and introduces realistic, relatable characters.  I found myself not wanting to put the book down.  4. I love the intersection of fantasy and scifi.  5. I don’t see first person used a lot in fantasy, and, after reading this book, I don’t understand why.  Mr. Ervin uses it to good effect.

Why not to buy the book: I’m not a big fan of elements of high fantasy.  This book contains (and this is not a comprehensive list): zombies, goblins, ogres, giants, and dragons.  Halfway through the work, I said to myself “at least there are no elves.”  I spoke too soon.   My other major problem with the book was some of the character names.  Road Toad?  Really?  By the end of the book (and this character appears frequently), I still had that reaction whenever I read the name. 

Bottom Line: I try to save 5 stars for my favorite books of all time like Eye of the World and Name of the Wind, and I couldn’t stretch quite that high for this one.  It’s a solid 4 and worth reading.  I plan on buying the rest of the books in the series.

Disclaimer: I purchased this book; I did not receive a promotional copy.  However, Mr. Ervin is a member of a writer forum that I frequent.  In exchange for this honest review, it is anticipated that he will provide an honest review of Power of the Mages when it is released.