One of the Best Readers’ LifeHacks Ever?

If eBook Bestseller Prices Are So High, Why Did BookGorilla Readers Get 91 of the Year’s Top 100 Bestsellers at an Average Price of $2.92?

by Steve Windwalker – October 13, 2015

Source: BookGorilla’s Annual Analysis of Top 100 Kindle Bestseller Prices

Okay, it’s multiple choice time. Two statements. Please pick one that’s true:

  1. Traditional publishers’ bestseller prices are rising to ridiculous levels, with an average original price of $11.22 for the Top 100 bestsellers in the Kindle store for the calendar year 2014.
  2. Traditional publishers are offering over 90% of their top Kindle bestsellers at huge, BookGorilla-worthy discounts, so that, to date, 91 of those Top 100 bestsellers for 2014 have been featured on BookGorilla, at an average price of $2.92.

The answer? Both statements are true.

More that any time since the 2007 launch of the Kindle, the big publishers are taking advantage of discounting incentives offered by Amazon to ensure that nearly every bestseller, and most other books as well, are offered at some point at the kind of low sub-$4 prices that ebook readers have come to love.

The vast majority of the time, let’s be clear, the prices for those same books are much higher.

Equally clear, there is a large swath of readers who are the readers’ equivalent of early adopters. They are eager, one could even say impatient, to buy bestsellers and their favorite authors’ other books when they first come out. They pay mightily to be part of this “be the first on your block” club; if they had purchased all of the Top 100 Kindle bestsellers of 2014 at their original prices, they would have spent $1,121.55. But pay they do, obviously. Otherwise  — and here’s this week’s tautology — those Top 100 Kindle bestsellers would not have been on the list.

But by putting nearly all of their most popular books on deep discounts averaging about 73% for short periods of time, usually ranging from one day to a month, the traditional publishers have made bargain-hunting an extremely beneficial exercise for a different group of readers: those who balance their love for bestsellers and other quality selections with very conscious price sensitivity.

By waiting for the right moment and pouncing when these books are at their best prices ever, an especially voracious price-sensitive reader could have purchased  the 91 bestsellers featured by BookGorilla for just $265.60. That’s a savings of $731.04 over the $996.44 original cost of these 91 titles. (Some of the other nine books were never offered at a serious discount; some others didn’t make it through BookGorilla’s curating process, in spite of their bestseller status.)

But there’s a catch, of course. Anyone could find those savings on the day they pop up, but you’d have to be looking … and looking … and looking. It would take so much time that there would be little or no time for reading. BookGorilla’s purpose is to find and recognize the best bargains and serve them up to our hundreds of thousands of followers each morning based on subscribers’ selected preferences.

No other ebook bargain alert service has delivered even half of these Top 100 bestseller deals to its subscribers over the past two years, which is why we humbly submit that, along with the Kindle itself, BookGorilla is the one of the greatest lifehacks ever for avid readers. (We also include recommendations for curated 5-star discoveries by indie authors and small or new-media presses, but in stark contrast to other ebook bargain alert services, fewer than 15% of the titles we recommend are ad-supported.)

Who are these price-sensitive readers? Well, we’re not going to give up their names or email addresses, but we’re happy to share some results from our latest BookGorilla 3-Minute Survey on “What Makes an Attractive eBook Bargain?”

We asked the 2,180 readers who have responded during the past week to select the statement that best approximates their approach to this question:

“How important are bargain prices in your decisions about which ebooks to buy?”

Here’s how they responded:

  1. I often pay full retail prices of $9.99 or above, but I also like to find bargain prices on books that I know I want to read.  136 responses – 6.24%
  2. Finding bargain prices is essential to my effort to stay on a budget, and I rarely pay full retail prices of $9.99 or above.  654 responses – 30.03%
  3. I almost never pay more than $2.99 for an ebook purchase.  740 responses – 33.98%
  4. I rarely download any ebook that is not free.  477 responses – 21.90%
  5. None of the above.  171 responses – 7.85%

These survey respondents don’t constitute all readers, of course. But they’re our readers, and it’s our mission to make them happy.  We wouldn’t want it any other way!

Coming in our next column: Okay, so price-sensitive readers get great deals, and everybody else seems willing to pay through the roof? Is it really such a win-win situation? We’ll take a closer look at why those $12 to $15 “regular” prices are unsustainable for even the largest publishers.


Kindle Store eBook Prices Are Rising … Or Are They?

by Steve Windwalker

October 5, 2015

There has been a steady drumbeat of complaints lately that Kindle Store prices are going up, up and away now that several major publishers have written “agency model pricing” into their latest ebook contracts with Amazon.

Is it really the case? Well, yes and no.

First, let’s take a look at a positively eerie case of the ebook price planets being in alignment. The chart below shows a price breakdown of the Top 100 bestsellers in the Kindle store. You can see that 27% of the Top 100 were priced under $3;  55% were priced between $3 and $9.99; and 18% were priced at $10 and up:

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 4.25.46 PM

Swell, you say, but when was this? And it’s the answer to that question that’s kind of amazing, because the above chart is an exact reflection of the price breakdown on Kindle bestsellers for three very different date ranges:

  • a snapshot of the Top 100 bestsellers on January 18, 2013;
  • a snapshot of the Top 100 bestsellers this past weekend, on October 4, 2015; and
  • Amazon’s calendar year list of the Top 100 bestsellers cumulatively from January 1, 2015 through October 4, 2015.

How can this possibly be? Well, we all know that figures lie and liars figure, so let’s put aside the YTD figures for now and take a closer look at the two single-day snapshots, using this comparative analysis from BookGorilla. Inside those aggregate figures, there are some fascinating trends:

  • There have been significant increases at both extremes of the pricing spectrum. On the low end, the number of 99-cent bestsellers increased from 15% to 24%. At the high end, the number of bestsellers priced at $13 and up has increased from 5% to 14%.
  • The clearest indication that the big publishers are raising their prices precipitously comes when one compares that increase at $13 and up with a dramatic change over the same period in the number of bestsellers priced from $9.99 to $12.99. 22% of the Top 100 bestsellers were in that price range back in January 2013, but only 6% fell in that range this weekend. Most eye-popping is the fact that, as of October 4, 2015, none of the books in the Top 100 bestsellers were priced at $9.99, which not so long ago was Amazon’s preferred price for bestsellers and new releases on Kindle.

One might conclude, therefore, that with the latest round of big publisher contracts, the publishers have soundly defeated Amazon.

But one would be wrong.

That’s where our most significant statistical comparison comes in:

In our January 2013 analysis, 58% of the Top 50 bestsellers were published by the big traditional publishers, and that figure has since declined to 38%. Conversely, 42% of the Top 50 bestsellers were published by indie authors or by Amazon’s own publishing imprints in January 2013, compared with 62% this past weekend.

In other words, what the big publishers have won in their latest round of contract “victories” over Amazon is the right to price themselves right off the bestseller list.  

And just in case you think that all of the least expensive books are self-published dreck, we’ll get into that in greater detail in the future, but the somewhat tautological truth is that these bestselling non-traditional titles are very popular, well-written books by authors with huge followings, including many who have left traditional publishers to go indie and others who have signed contracts and hit the bestseller lists with Amazon’s ever-expanding group of successful publishing imprints.

We’ll look further into the consequences of these trends for readers, authors, and publishers in future posts, and also look more closely at the meaning of the discrepancy between the snapshot sales rankings and the calendar year bestsellers. But let’s stop there for now and remember that bargains, like beauty, are often in the eye of the beholder.

With that in mind, we would love it if you would take 3 minutes to answer 3 questions about what constitutes a bargain in today’s ebook market, the importance of bargains, and how you find your best ebook buys.

Please? It will really help us drill down on how we can best serve you at BookGorilla. And thanks in advance!

Create your own user feedback survey

Authors, Would You Like Your Own Totally Free BookGorilla Author’s Page with a FOLLOW Button and User-Controlled Sorting for Your Fans?

(Updated with new features June 4, 2015)

A few weeks ago we shared a reader-facing post about a brand new feature called BookGorilla Author’s Pages, which are meant to make it easier than ever for BookGorilla readers — and all readers — to find your books.

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 12.56.57 PMBookGorilla Author Pages are an absolutely free service, and here (at left) is a screenshot example of one that has been live for a couple of weeks, Pulitzer Prize winning NY Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof’s BookGorilla Author’s Page. We hope you like the idea.

We think this will be the ultimate win-win, because our goals are simple: we want to help great authors sell great books, and we want our readers to find the books that they want to read, at the best possible prices. (And of course, the more readers discover great deals on great books, the more BookGorilla will be rewarded, without authors having to pay a dime for this service.)

As with just about anything worth doing, the more we all put into this project, the more good will come of it, but it is clear that It can make a nice difference not only in an author’s book sales but also in the discoverability of his page. Just the other day Nick Kristof sent these updates out to his 1.59 million Twitter followers, his 1.4 million Google Plus followers, and his 600,000+ Facebook followers:

Within a few hours three of the top five front-page Google search listings for his Kindle books (and two of the top six Bing results) were directing searchers to Nick’s BookGorilla Author’s Page.

And now we’ve added a special feature — a “Follow [this author]” button — which gives every visitor to Nick’s page the opportunity to have more of Nick’s Kindle books included in that visitor’s daily BookGorilla alert:

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 1.01.26 PM

In addition to the Follow button, we’ve just added an index page (soon to be further enhanced), as well as another user-friendly feature that allows readers to sort the books on any author’s page by price or sales rank:

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 2.31.55 PM

Of course you don’t need millions of followers to be effective at driving traffic to your BookGorilla Author’s Page. What you will need, if you don’t have it already, is your own BookGorilla Author’s Page.  We’ve already responded to amazing author interest by creating thousands of new author pages, and we’ll be glad to do the same for you. To get you started, we’ve created a user-friendly web form so you can provide everything we’ll need to create, update, or improve the accuracy of your own BookGorilla Author’s Page:

BookGorilla Author’s Page Input Form

Please be patient, but we’ll do our best to create or update your BookGorilla Author’s Page soon after you submit this form. When your page is live or updated, we will send you a link to your  page so that you can share it with your readers and fans. Whether you use tweets, Facebook updates, a static link on your website, your email signature, or all of these, we hope you’ll use that link to spread the word and encourage your fans to click the “Follow” button on your BookGorilla Author’s Page. When readers click that button, they’ll see your books much more frequently in their daily BookGorilla alerts!

Thanks for taking a moment to read this post — we are very excited about the chance to work with you to help our readers find your books! We hope we’ll see your BookGorilla Author’s Page Input Form soon, and please feel free to share this news with other author and publisher friends!

-Steve Windwalker

The Social Construction of a Bestseller, from The Formula

The following paragraph from the very smart and well-written book I am reading today is certainly not rocket science, but it is a very nice, concise summary of the way in which the ld516making of a bestseller can be very much a social process, all the more so in the age of the ebook:

“… there is an accidental quality to success, in which high-ranking songs take an early lead for reasons that seem inconsequential, based upon those taste-makers who sample it first. Once this lead is established, it is exacerbated through social feedback. A bookshop, for instance, might notice that one particular book is proving more popular than others, and therefore decide to order more copies. At this stage, the book may be selling 11 copies for every 10 sold by its next most popular rival–a marginal improvement. But when the new copies arrive they are displayed in favorable places around the shop (on a table next to the front door, for example) and soon the book is  selling twice as many copies as its closest rival. To sell even more, the bookshop then decides to try to attract new customers by lowering its own profit margins and selling the book at a reduced price. At this point the book is selling four times as many copies as its closest rival. Because customers have the impression that the book is popular (and therefore must be good) they are more likely to buy it, thereby driving sales up even more.”

from The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems . . . and Create More by Luke Dormehl (Penguin: Perigee Books – November 4, 2014)

–Steve Windwalker



It’s always fun to compare: BookBub vs. BookGorilla eBook Recommendations for Saturday, May 16, 2015

BB BG COMPS 5-16-15PicMonkey Collage

The folks over at BookBub have never asked us to help them with branding, but if they did, we’d absolutely give them credit for providing “the best ebook recommendations money can buy.”

Based on the information that they provide right on their website, we have estimated that advertisers pay BookBub well over $15,000 a day to try to get you to buy the books they recommend.

Here at BookGorilla, we take the responsibility to provide curated recommendations a bit more seriously. By comparison, over 85% of the titles that we recommend at BookGorilla are provided based solely on the merit of the book and the deal, without any associated  advertising revenue.

We think the difference shows up when one compares the books recommended on each site. We’re here to save our readers time and money by providing the books you have always wanted to read at prices you never dreamed possible.

It’s not so much that “we try harder,” as that we are trying for different things. We’re aiming for your bedside reading table, not your remainder table. And we’ve got our eyes on the prize of providing value for readers, not for venture capital investors.

-Steve Windwalker

Related posts:




Here’s something brand new: BookGorilla Author Pages!

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 5.09.57 PM
A screenshot of novelist Debbie Macomber’s BookGorilla Author Page.

We never tire of working on the kinds of improvements that have made BookGorilla a big favorite with readers who want to find the best-ever deals on books they’ve been wanting to read, and it’s in that spirit that we share the news of a brand new beta feature on our website: BookGorilla Author Pages!

Whether you arrive at one of these author pages from a link in your daily BookGorilla alert, as a result of a blog post like this one, a web search, or a tweet or other mention from an author whom you follow, we think you’ll find that BookGorilla Author Pages provide a great way to drill down on books by your favorite authors.

And since we know that our readers cover the waterfront from bestsellers to indie discoveries across all genres, we’re committed to building a totally inclusive array of BookGorilla Author Pages from favorite indie authors like Suzanne Jenkins to hybrid stars like Noel Hynd to top-tier bestsellers like Harper Lee, Lee Child, and Mary Higgins Clark.

As we grow from a hundred or so prototype pages to thousands and beyond over the coming weeks, we’ll also be introducing additional features like a follow or subscribe button for individual authors, title sorting by price, links to audiobook listings, and more … so please stay tuned!

–Steve Windwalker








10 Million Reasons Why That Other Service Can’t Show You the Deals You Find on BookGorilla

For many readers who have been keeping up with those daily siBB BG COMP 3-21-2015 PicMonkey Collagede-by-side comparisons that have shown BookGorilla to be far outpacing BookBub when it comes to recommending great book deals on bestselling books by well-known authors, there has been a pretty obvious question:

“Why doesn’t BookBub just work harder to find the kind of books that are featured by BookGorilla each day?”

The answer? It’s complicated, but it’s all about the bottom line. BookBub has nearly 10 million reasons to focus on books that it needs readers to buy, while BookGorilla’s more customer-centric mission is aimed at providing readers with books they already wanted at prices they never dreamed were possible.

We’re sure that BookBub would like to be able to present great deals on more prominent books, but they are constrained by a few obvious structural facts that are implicit in their business model:

  • For starters, BookBub depends on two major revenue streams, which together provide  revenues of over $26,000 daily, or about $9.7 annually, according to our estimates based on information provided on the company’s website. For instance, the 27 books recommended on BookBub’s deals page yesterday would have paid BookBub just over $16,000 for their placement on BookBub’s “curated” list,  and are likely to have brought the company an additional $10,000, at least, in affiliate fees such as Amazon Associates proceeds. “Curated” is as “curated” does, but that $16,000 daily would be a lot of money to leave on the table if BookBub were to make a strategic decision to add value for readers by opting to drop some of those 27 ad-supported spots in favor of more prominent, highly desired books at great deal prices such as those featured on the BookGorilla site.
  • Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 8.08.12 PM
    Screenshot of third-party banner ad in March 15, 2014 BookBub alert.

    But with that much money coming in, one might ask, wouldn’t BookBub still be profitable if it decided to improve the quality of its daily recommendations by doing just that: replacing some ad-supported spots with more widely known books by bestselling authors? Sure, but then BookBub would run into another difficult structural challenge: the company is increasingly in the position of having to answer to venture capitalists and other angel funders. Indeed, since its May 2014 announcement that it had raised $3.8 million in Series A funding, BookBub has ratcheted up its ad-supported offerings: from 15 to 20 daily spots in early 2014 to 25 to 30 now, with no concomitant increase in bestsellers or other well-known titles. Meanwhile, Bookbub has recently been experimenting with adding paid third-party advertising banners served by LiveIntent (see screenshot above at right ) to the millions of emails it sends out to self-identified book lovers each day. Naturally, the point at which a company accepts investor funding  is usually the point at which its autonomy with respect to its mission begins to come under pressure.

  • While BookBub founder Josh Schanker keeps the lowest of online profiles, it would not be surprising to see him exit with a payday in the high nine figures or beyond, given his history as a serial entrepreneur and BookBub’s impressive success to date. With such heady outcomes looming for Schanker and other key players, one can’t really expect BookBub to allow short-term revenues to soften in favor of a longer-term commitment to adding value for readers by changing the ratio between ad-supported spots and truly curated recommendations of the best books available at the best prices each day.

Not to worry. BookBub is doing just fine. But with its need to get readers to buy the books that it wants them to buy even if they’ve never heard of the title or the author before, it does present a real contrast in mission with our BookGorilla upstart.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you already know what that contrast in mission is all about. Although BookGorilla certainly continues to sell all the ad-supported spots it makes available, it remains true that fewer than 20% of all the books recommended by BookGorilla are ad-supported. That leaves us free to pick the best deals at the best prices each day, and to remain true to our mission, which is to provide readers with books they had already wanted to read at prices they never dreamed possible.

-Steve Windwalker

A few thoughts behind our recent comparisons of BookBub and BookGorilla daily book recommendations

Earlier this week we shared a picture that may have surprised some of our readers: a side-by-side comparison of Wednesday’s top ebook recommendations from our BookGorilla service and another popular service called BookBub. If you were looking for great deals on titles that most readers have heard of (which is certainly not the only worthwhile measuring stick), it was clear that you’d be far more likely to find them on BookGorilla than on BookBub.

If we say so ourselves. And we do.

Of course there are plenty of good reasons why avid readers may want to subscribe to both services — after all, both are totally free. And there are other ways in which BookBub has a clear edge, including:

  • If price-per-unit is your main consideration in acquiring books for your Kindle library, you may well want to go with BookBub. In today’s comparison, for example, BookBub’s top book recommendations were available for an average price of $1.45 in the Kindle store, while the average price for BookGorilla’s top recommendations was $1.91.
  • If you participate in a Kindle author fantasy league and you want to know which previously unknown book is most likely to vault from a sales ranking of 688,529 to the Top 100 Kindle bestsellers in the next 24 hours, BookBub’s also your best bet. It’s true that several books featured on BookGorilla make Amazon’s Movers and Shakers list each day, but they generally don’t have as far to go to make that list. And subject to check, BookBub has approximately a gazillion subscribers, many of whom still open each day’s BookBub alert. Numbers like that are sure to move just about any needle, no?
  • Finally, among authors and publishers for whom money is no object when it comes to their marketing budgets, BookBub’s a clear choice. You may spend as much as $1,975 for a single promotion on BookBub, but you’re likely to get a bigger bump than you will get for $40 to $200 with BookGorilla or similar amounts with other well-managed services such as eReader News Today.

We could probably go on, but of course we’re not here to do BookBub’s work; they are very effective on their own behalf.

And as we will try to explain in a new post this weekend, there are about 9.5 million great reasons why BookBub wants readers to focus on the books that it includes in its daily ebook alert, even if you’ve never heard of them before.

Happy Reading!

-Steve Windwalker