Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Looking at Kindle Bestsellers

Right now I'm selling about 180 ebooks a day on Kindle.

That's pretty crazy. So crazy, that some people on the interwebs are wondering if I'm making it up.

Well, I'm not. Here's a video for proof. Check the time and date and crunch the numbers.

Click Here.

Some (most?) people want to believe this is an anomaly. That I'm some aberration. And there's very good reason they want to believe this. Because if I'm not a fluke, then print publishing might be in very big trouble, and authors who have print publishers might be in very big trouble.

It's much easier to think there's a specific reason behind sales. One I've seen a lot is:

"Konrath is selling well because he has a name and a fan base."

Okay, let's analyze that.

First of all, I've worked my butt off for seven years trying to promote my brand and establish a fan base. I'd love to believe that my hard work has paid off, and that people are flocking to my books in droves.

Unfortunately, there are some serious flaws with this statement.

1. My publisher is selling almost as many ebooks as print books. According to the last statistic I read, less than 10% of all book sales are ebooks. So if people truly are finding my books because they know my name, shouldn't they be buying the print versions?

Let's look at my first book, Whiskey Sour. It's in its fifth printing. Last royalty statement, I sold 1547 paperback copies. I also sold 1401 ebooks of Whiskey Sour.

Hmm. That's strange. Shouldn't my ebook sales be only 10% of my print sales? That's how it is with other authors.

Why have I sold so many ebooks of Whiskey Sour?

Oh, wait. I know. Because I've sold 37,000 other ebooks for $1.99, and some of the people that bought those became fans and bought the more-expensive ebooks that my publisher is selling.

This isn't a case of JA Konrath fans buying my cheap ebooks. It's a case of readers buying my cheap ebooks, then becoming JA Konrath fans.

2. I give these ebooks away for free. You can go to my website, JAKonrath.com, and download for free most of the ebooks I'm selling on Kindle.

Wouldn't my fans know that? Why would they buy them when they're already free?

3. Cheap sells better. How can I be sure? When Grand Central released AFRAID as an ebook, they priced it at $1.99 for the first month. Keep in mind that Afraid was written by my pen name, Jack Kilborn, who had no built in fan base.

In one month, Afraid sold 10,253 ebooks. Then, in May, they raised the price. Since then, it has only sold 3720 copies. If this were a name-recognition thing, the ebook would have continued to sell well. After all, the bestseller lists are filled with high priced ebooks by name authors.

4. I'm not the only one. Right now, I have nine books on the Kindle Police Procedural Top 100 Bestseller list. This fluctuates--sometimes I have as many as thirteen in the top 100.

So who else is on this list?

All the ususal suspects are there, selling at full price. Jonathan Kellerman, Robert Crais, JD Robb, Michael Connelly, James Patterson, Charlaine Harris, Robert B. Parker, Jeffery Deaver, Lisa Gardner, Stuart Woods, James Lee Burke, Nelson Demille, Kay Hooper, Anne Perry, John Sandford.

These are all NYT bestsellers. Why am I up there with them? Why am I ten percent of the entire bestseller list?

Price. My books are cheaper.

And guess what? There are a few others on the same bestseller list. Charles Shea is selling well at 99 cents. Casey Moreton has three books on the list, all at $1.99. Eric Cristopherson is hanging tight at $1.99. Michael Harvey is $1.59. John Luciew is $2.99. J Gregory Smith is 99 cents.

So a bunch of newbies are competing with a bunch of bestselling authors. And none of those newbies has the so-called fan base and name that I have.

What conclusions do I draw from this?

I'd wouldn't say "J.A. Konrath is selling a lot because he has fans and an established print backlist."

I'd say "Readers like inexpensive ebooks."

Apparently, readers don't mind paying more for books they want. They'll pay ten bucks for a bestseller. They'll also pay seven bucks for me, if I hook them with a two buck ebook first.

This really makes me wonder, though, how well I'd be selling if all of my ebooks were a few dollars each.

Writers are notoriously tight-lipped about how much they earn, and how many books they sell. But I humbly ask my peers who read this blog: how many ebooks did you sell on your last royalty statement? How many compared to your print books?

You don't have to have a name to sell well on Kindle. All you have to have is a good book at a low price.

Remember that value isn't the cover price of a book. A book's true value is how much money it makes.

I'm making $125 a day. In July, it will be over $300 a day. By the end of the year, I'll have $100,000 in my pocket.

That's not a fluke. That's simply paying attention to what customers want, and giving it to them.

Write a good book. Make a good cover. Use a good description. Then sell it for cheap and make the money in volume.