Thursday, June 11, 2009

Amazon Kindle Numbers

Elsewhere on the Internets, people have been referring to my previous posts about the Amazon Kindle (here and here) and one of the things they were interested in is numbers.

So here they are. Thoughts, explanations, and predictions to follow.

AFRAID
by Jack Kilborn, a horror novel, was released on the Kindle on April 1. During the first month of its release, it was available for $1.99 on Kindle. During that month, it sold over 10,400 copies.

SERIAL by Jack Kilborn and Blake Crouch was released for free on the Kindle May 20th. It's a horror novella. As of June 10, it has been downloaded on Kindle more than 34,000 times. SERIAL also appears on www.blakecrouch.com, and has had 12,000 downloads, along with 7000 downloads from the Sony Reader website.

Both AFRAID and SERIAL were released by my publisher, Grand Central. They promoted both titles on Amazon using sidebars on Amazon.com, and on the Amazon Kindle blog.

On April 8th, I began to upload my own books to Kindle. As of today, June 11, at 11:40am, here is how many copies I've sold, and how much they've earned.

THE LIST, a technothriller/police procedural novel, is my biggest seller to date, with 1612 copies sold. Since April this has earned $1081.75. I originally priced it at $1.49, and then raised it to $1.89 this month to see if the sales would slow down. The sales sped up instead.

ORIGIN, a technothriller/horror occult adventure novel, is in second place, with 1096 copies sold and $690.18. As with The List and my other Kindle novels, I upped the price to $1.89.

SUCKERS is a thriller/comedy/horror novella I wrote with Jeff Strand. It also includes some Konrath and Strand short stories. 449 copies, $306.60.

DISTURB is a medical thriller. 371 copies, $234.21.

SHOT OF TEQUILA
is a crime novel featuring Jack Daniels. 342 copies, $164.02.

55 PROOF is a collection of 55 short stories. 217 copies, $138.99.

PLANTER'S PUNCH is a Jack Daniels novella I co-wrote with Tom Schreck. 154 copies, $107.10.

DIRTY JOKES & VULGAR POEMS is a collection of over 1000 of my Twitters, one-liners, and funny poems. 37 copies sold, $18.57.

So far on Kindle I've earned $2781.35 in 64 days.

PRICING: I've kept my collaborations priced at $1.59, and upped my other books to $1.89. Also, I reduced the price of my poetry collection to 80 cents.

What I've learned about pricing: Not much. I went on some Kindle forums and asked what the magic price point is, and got answers ranging between free and five bucks.

I've kept my books under two bucks for several reasons. First, because my intent is to use these books to hook readers and get them to buy my other, in-print titles. I give these same books away on my website for free, so charging Kindle users more than a few bucks doesn't seem fair.

That said, raising the price from $1.59 to $1.89 didn't cause any drop in sales or Amazon ranking. In fact, my Kindle numbers have been steadily going up.

I don't know what the perfect combination of price/profit is... yet. Authors make 35% of their suggested retail price (Amazon then discounts this.) So I can raise the price, sell fewer books, but still make a greater profit.

For me, however, this isn't all about profit. It's about units sold. Which also gets confusing.

UNITS SOLD: Pricing doesn't seem to be much of a factor in units sold, as my lowest price book is also my worst seller, and there doesn't seem to be any correlation between price and sales.

What I've learned about units sold: Nothing. I have no clue why The List, which is a fun technothriller about cloning, is outselling Origin, which is about a secret government compound studying Satan. In fact, on my website, Origin has been downloaded 2675 times, and The List only 2223.

Even stranger is SHOT OF TEQUILA, which is a Jack Daniels tie-in novel. I'm known for my JD books, and there is a pre-existing audience for them. Yet the Kindle version is very much underperforming compared to my other three novels, even though I have sold more than 300 copies of it on my website for 99 cents.

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION: I've tweaked all of my product descriptions several times, playing with the wording and the formatting. I didn't see any noticeable uptick or downtick with any changes I've made.

What I've learned about product description: I believe the product description should sing, but the genre of the book may be more important than the description. I think my best and most provocative description is for the poem book, which is selling poorly.

Category listings and keywords seem to be just as important, if not more important, than the description, because this is how people browse for titles.

COVER ART: People do judge books by their covers, and the covers I've uploaded to Kindle aren't good.

What I've learned about cover art: Not much. I redid the cover art on the poetry book, and it apparently did nothing. Of course, the new art may be just as ugly as the old art.

I'm having a professional cover done for TEQUILA to see if that improves sales. I'll keep everyone posted.

NAME RECOGNITION: Having seven books in print does make it easier for people looking for my books to find them. But there are other authors doing just as well or better than I am on Kindle, and they've never been traditionally published.

What I've learned about name recognition: It may not be as important as other criteria.

QUALITY OF WRITING: Do good books sell better than bad books? Is it even possible to judge quality objectively?

What I've learned about quality of writing: Amazon reviews and Kindle previews (which allow people do download a sample before buying) should have a long range impact on sales. I would think poor reviews will sink a book, or poor writing will result in it not being downloaded, or it being returned (Kindle books can be refunded.)

But I'm not sure if this is a deciding sales factor yet, because the Kindle is still so new, and because people are buying cheap Kindle books but aren't reading them right away.

I also have to look at SERIAL, which has gotten more than twenty 1 star reviews, and is still being downloaded 1000 times per day.

Perception of quality ultimately dictates if a person will buy your next book, but may not be a factor in them trying your first book. For two bucks, why not try it? And if it sits on the Kindle without being read for a year, it isn't helping or hurting your future sales.

But good reviews do help sales, just like a good cover and a good product description does. I just haven't figured out how much yet...

CONCLUSIONS

It's hard to draw any conclusions, because there just isn't enough data. But there are some things I'm noticing.

1. Publisher releases vastly outsell author releases. This seems obvious, but a publisher can buddy-up with Amazon and get primo placement. Authors can't do this on their own.

2. Price matters. All of my ebooks (even the poetry one) are on the genre bestseller lists, outselling name-brand authors. I'm sure this is because of price.

3. Being active on the Kindle forums, in newsletters, and on Amazon, may do more for sales than your cover, your description, your reviews, or even your writing. The key is to make people aware of your books. The more awareness there is, the more you'll sell.

Once you're on a bestseller list, that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. People browse the lists, see your book, buy your book, you stay on the lists.

4. Novels outsell short stories. It's like this in print as well, but my numbers confirm it.

5. No one buys poetry. Even outrageously funny poetry.

6. My technothrillers are doing much better than my medical thriller and my crime novel. Is this because more Kindle owners like technothrillers? It seems so.

GOALS:

1. To get professional cover art for all of my Kindle books.

2. To release a Kindle exclusive novel at a slightly higher price point ($2.99) under JA Konrath to see how it does.

3. To release a Jack Kilborn/J.A. Konrath short story on Kindle for 99 cents to see how it does.

I'm not sure what the future holds for the Amazon Kindle. I'm currently earning $90 a day, with no signs of slowing down. Now that the Kindle DX was released, I expect my numbers to rise.

With 1.5 million Kindles sold, I could sell 200 books per day, for 720 days, and still only reach 10% of all Kindle buyers. If we include all of the iPhone and iPod Touch owners who can download a Kindle ap, along with continued Kindle sales, I should be able to sell quite a few books before coming close to saturating this market.

If the $90 per day trend keeps up, that's $32,850 a year. Not a huge amount, but not chump change either.

I'll keep everyone updated. And FWIW, in the time it took me to write this blog entry, I made $16 on Kindle...