Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Tornado Siren e-book: progress report (2 months)
Tornado Siren has now been an e-book for a little more than two months . It's been selling some copies, but certainly I'm not putting up anything close to Joe Konrath or Amanda Hocking numbers (not even in the same universe). No publishers are beating down my door to reprint the novel. On the other hand, there are people actually reading the book again, and I'm making enough money to buy the family a pizza or two.
So, here are the sales numbers so far, by platform/version:
Kindle: 58 copies so far (22 so far in April)
Smashwords: 6 copies sold
Nook (Barnes & Noble): 2
Total: 68 ebooks (plus I sold two paper copies in this time period, too)
What little promo I did mostly was done in February and early March, so it's encouraging, and a little surprising, to see that the ebook is continuing to sell, even though I didn't have time to do any marketing in April.
I'm still surprised by the absolute dominance of Kindle/Amazon over all other outlets. I figured there'd be an imbalance, but 30-to-1 over Nook is pretty impressive.
Smashwords gives me numbers on how many people download the free sample (the first 60%) of the book. So far, 62 people have read sample page. I'm curious to see if the conversion rate of samples to sales will stay at 10-to-1, or change over time. I'd love to know how other people do with their books.
John August recently posted sales numbers for his short story, The Variant, on his blog. He's selling a short story for $0.99, and has sold 4,608 copies through Amazon since March 2009, with most sales coming in the first six months. He's got a good platform to let people know about the story (he's a very talented screenwriter (author of Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and writes a very useful blog about screenwriting). He also got his story out there two years ago, when the number of titles available for the Kindle was much smaller, so it was easier to crack the top 100 (which makes the title much easier for a casual user to find). Nowadays, he's selling 10-45 copies a month, and The Variant seems to have a sales ranking similar to Tornado Siren, in the 30,000 range.
I'm hoping to do some more promo in May, to see if I can boost sales a bit. But getting to Amanda Hocking numbers (she self-published nine e-books and sold more than a million copies in less than two years. She just landed a print contract with St. Martin's for $2 million. Here's the NYT story.) takes some serious time and commitment. In the article, she says she jumped at the offer, not just because of the money, but because: “I want to be a writer,” she said. “I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling e-mails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc. Right now, being me is a full-time corporation.”
When making the decision to publish an ebook, if you want to avoid huge disappointment, I think you need to go into it with the right expectations. Most people aren't going to sell more than a few copies of their ebooks. Joe Konrath already had plenty of books in print before he starting selling thousands of ebooks and became one of the big promoters of self-publishing ebooks. Amanda Hocking has nine titles for sale, and markets like crazy.
However, it seems to me that if you have an out-of-print novel, you don't have much to lose from trying to sell some copies as an ebook. Before Tornado Siren went out of print, no one was buying it anymore--the only people reading it were in libraries (and not many of those). After it went out of print, no one was reading it. But in the past two months, I've picked up 70 new readers. I write in order to have my stuff read, so at the most basic level, putting Tornado Siren out as an ebook has been worth it.
I might be able to increase sale a little bit with more marketing, but I'm not sure how much. Probably a bigger boost would come from having more titles, but I don't have anything ready at the moment (I'm still hoping for traditional print contracts on the two novels my agent is shopping). A little luck would help--if someone reads it and gets enthusiastic and start telling their friends and everyone they know, and they do the same, and then it clicks into the top 100 for a while, that might give a good bump.
I'll let you know what the next few months bring.