Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Konrath Ebooks Sales Top 100k

I haven't posted my sales numbers in a while, and was going to hold off on this until I got my latest royalty statements. But I've reached a milestone, and decided it is worth sharing.

As of today, Sept 21, 2010, I've sold 103,864 ebooks.

Here's how it breaks down:

My six Hyperion ebooks, from June 2004 until December 2009: 7865

Afraid from Grand Central, from May 2009 until December 2009: 13,973

Self-pubbed titles on Kobo from May 2010 until July 2010: 132

Self-pubbed titles on Smashwords since July 2009: 372

Self-pubbed titles on iPad from May 2010 until August 2010: 390

Self-pubbed titles on iTunes from Jan 2010 until July 2010: 508

Self-pubbed titles on Barnes & Noble from June 2010 until August 2010: 2212

Self pubbed titles on Amazon from April 2009 until Sept 20, 2010: 78,412

So what does all of this mean to the home viewer?

Currently, I'm selling an average of 7000 self-pubbed ebooks a month on Kindle. Those numbers are for 19 self-pubbed titles, though the top 6 account for more than 75% of my sales, roughly 5000 per month.

That means those six are averaging 833 sales, or $1700, per month, each. That equals $20,400 per year, per ebook, for my top sellers.

Those six are my top sellers because they're novels. My other 13 ebooks are novellas and short story collections, which don't sell as well.

Considering the average advance for a new novel is still $5,000, each of these ebook novels is quadrupling that, annually. And these numbers are rising, not falling.

Compare that to the ebook novels my print publishers are controlling. (These numbers are going to be low, because I haven't gotten my latest royalty statements for Jan-June 2010 yet.)

My best selling Hyperion ebook, Whiskey Sour, has sold 2631 ebooks since 2004. That's earned me about $2200, or $34 a month since it was released.

$34 a month per ebook is a far cry from the $1700 a month per ebook I'm making on my own.

Why are my self-pubbed ebooks earning more than Whiskey Sour, which remains my bestselling print title with over 80,000 books sold in various formats?

Because Hyperion has priced Whiskey Sour at $4.69 on Amazon, and I price my ebooks at $2.99.

For each $4.69 ebook they sell, I earn $1.17.

For each $2.99 ebook I sell, I earn $2.04.

So I'm basically losing money hand over fist because Hyperion is pricing my ebooks too high, and giving me too low a royalty rate.

Even the print sales (Whiskey Sour just went into a fifth printing) don't come close to making up the money I'm losing.

If we assume I could sell 833 copies per month of Whiskey Sour, I'd be earning $17,000 per year on it, rather than $5616 per year. (I'm guessing my numbers have gone up recently, and am estimating 400 Whiskey Sour sales per month.)

Let's multiply that times the six books Hyperion controls.

I'm estimating I currently earn $33,696 annually in ebook royalties on those six.

If I had the rights, I estimate I'd earn $102,000.

Do I want my books to go out of print?

Hell yeah.

Now allow me to address the other ebook venues, on a case-by-case basis.

Through Smashwords.com, I've sold 3106 ebooks, but the majority of these have been within the last three months or so.

Smashwords allows authors to sell ebooks through their site, and also supplies ebooks to Kobo, iPad, B&N, Sony, and Diesel. (I haven't gotten Sony or Diesel numbers yet.)

My Kobo numbers are low, because I opted out of Kobo. They discounted my ebooks, which isn't fair to other retailers. But I'm currently working on a deal with Kobo to have my ebooks back up very soon. Kobo supplies books to Borders.com, so I anticipate a bump this holiday season.

iPad has proven disappointing, and I blame the iBookstore interface, which is very user unfriendly. I assume it will get the kinks worked out eventually, but it is currently torture to navigate and browse the iBookstore. Still, almost 400 sales in just a few months is better than nothing.

Of course, compared Kindle sales, I'm selling 70 to 1 on Amazon over iPad.

Barnes and Noble fares a bit better. I'm averaging 663 ebooks per month, which is substantial. It's still about 10.5 to 1 compared to Kindle, but I'm pleased with it.

For iTunes, I use IndianNIC. The 508 sales figure is incomplete, and doesn't count the last 2 and a half months, because their user interface isn't the best. But they're now supplying ebooks to Android, so I'm hoping to get a piece of that growing market.

Actually, I'm hoping to get a piece of all the growing markets, and every market seems to be growing. By the end of the year, my self pubbed books will be on all the major ebook platforms, including:

Amazon
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble
Borders
Kobo
iTunes
iPad
Android
Kobo
Diesel
Sony

Do you know what that is? That's distribution. The very thing print publishers have had a lock on for a hundred years. Except now, authors control their own distribution.

By comparison, the ebook rights my print publishers control are missing from many of these key markets. On a daily basis I get emails from fans who want Whiskey Sour or Afraid for their device or in their country, but my publishers aren't exploiting these rights.

Am I angry?

Hell yeah.

And to add insult to injury, Hyperion recently packaged my six Jack Daniels ebooks together as a compendium. At first, I was thrilled with this, thinking they finally understood what I've been saying for months. Then they told me the price.

$36.00.

Even with Amazon's discount, that comes to $28.80, for ebooks that are several years old.

That's insane. And yet, a few poor souls are buying it, because it's still cheaper than buying the books separately.

I sent Hyperion several emails, explaining my reasoning for wanting this price lowered.

They haven't responded.

Now the anomaly here is Grand Central. They've sold 13,973 ebooks. Isn't that odd, compared to Hyperion?

Not when you realize that 10,253 of those ebooks were sold during the first month of Afraid's release, at the intro price of $1.99.

Consider that. In one month we sold 10,253 ebooks, just because it was cheap.

Now try to contemplate why publishers continue to charge $5 to $13 for ebooks.

Are you scratching your head like I am, wondering why they don't sell ebooks at lower prices?

Since that promo (and probably because of it), Afraid has been averaging around 465 ebook sales a month. Respectable, but still below my average, and only earning me $1.75 per ebook instead of $2.05.

But that's not a big deal, right?

Let's look at it over a three year period.

If I had the rights to Afraid and priced it at $2.99, I'd earn $51,000.

With Grand Central, pricing it at $6.99, I'll earn $29,295.

Ouch.

Do I want my rights back?

Hell yeah.

I wrote Afraid under the name Jack Kilborn, and received a $20,000 advance. It was released in the US, the UK, and Australia simultaneously. In nine months, combining the ebooks, trade paper, hardcover, and two paperback versions, Afraid sold 53,623 copies and earned $26,839.

On June 18, I self-published Endurance and Trapped, two more novels by Jack Kilborn. I released them in ebook format only, for $2.99 each.

In three months, Endurance and Trapped have each earned $11,424.

So, in other words, I'm earning $35,785 per year on Afraid, in all formats.

Endurance is on its way to earn $45,696 per year, in ebook only. So is Trapped.

And unlike Afraid, where I made the majority of my royalties on the print versions, which will sell fewer and fewer copies, Endurance and Trapped will continue to sell well for years as ebooks.

With Afraid, I went on tour and signed at 200 bookstores. I did a blog tour the month before, appearing on 100 blogs in 31 days. I worked my ass off promoting that book.

With Endurance and Trapped, I announced them on Kindleboards.com and did a few tweets on Twitter. That's it.

Does anyone else see this as a wake-up call?

When I began this ebook odyssey, back in April 2009, I had no idea the market would get so big so fast, or that I'd make so much money.

Since then, a lot of folks have done their best to dismiss what I've been preaching. They say I'm an outlier. An exception.

But I'm not an exception anymore.

New writers like Zoe Winters, Rex Kusler, Vicki Tyley, Karen McQuestion, John Rector, Aaron Patterson, B.V. Larson, Stacey Cochran, Amanda Hocking, D.B. Henson, Eric Christopherson, Debbi Mack, Karen Cantwell, Jonny Tangerine, Stephen Davison, Charles Shea, Joe Humphrey, Gary Hansen, M.H. Sargent, R.J. Keller, David McAfee, David Derrico, David Dalglish, Brendan Carroll, Alan Hutcheson, Paul Clayton, Imogen Rose, Tonya Plank, David H. Burton, Tina Folsom, Maria Rachel Hooley, Maria E. Schneider, Anna Murray, Ellen O'Connell, Edward C. Patterson, Caroyln Kephart, Lynda Hillburn, Robert Burton Robinson, Joseph Rhea, C.S. Marks, K.A. Thompson, J.R. Rain, John Pearson, Tonya Plank, Linda Welch, Ruth Francisco, Sibel Hodge, T.C. Beacham, Ricky Sides, Chance Valentine, Nancy C. Johnson, and many, many others are selling thousands of ebooks and getting on the bestseller lists. Many of them have even cracked the Top 100.

Then there are established pros like Robert W. Walker, Scott Nicholson, William Meikle, James Swain, Paul Levine, Selena Kitt, Richard S. Wheeler, Jon Merz, Simon Wood, F. Paul Wilson, Libby Fischer Hellman, Lee Goldberg, Casey Moreton, Raymond Benson, Blake Crouch, David Morrell, Mark Terry, Marcus Sakey, Ellen Fisher, Christine Merrill, Dean Wesley Smith, Kathryn Rusch, Joe Nassise, Gordon Ryan, Harry Shannon, and me, among others, who are releasing their backlists themselves, along with putting original works directly on Kindle.

I'm not the exception anymore. New writers and seasoned veterans are seeing the future and acting on it.

Publishers, however, are not.

Now allow me to draw some conclusions, make some predictions, and offer a bit of advice.

1. Think twice, and think again, before allowing anyone to buy your erights. I doubt I'll ever have another traditional print deal. I can earn more on my own, especially in the long run. With print losing ground to ebooks on a day-to-day basis, I'd hate to sign with a big house, and then 18 months from now they'll go bankrupt before releasing my book, taking my rights with them.

2. Amazon Kindle is where you want to be, but you should also check out Smashwords.com and IndiaNIC.com. That extra bit of income can turn out to be pretty substantial, and I expect some of these platforms to begin picking up speed.

3. Writing good books is essential. Having a bunch of them is a plus. The more ebooks you have available, the easier you'll be to find, the more you'll sell. By the end of this year, I'll have 28 ebooks available on Amazon. By the end of next year, I'll have at least 34.

4. I've been very lucky. I have a popular blog, and have gotten some good press. The scads of promotion I've done in the past certainly helps. But others are doing just as well, without my platform. And let me tell you, ebooks and Kindle are a much easier route than getting 500 rejections, mailing out 7000 letters to libraries, and visiting 1200 bookstores.

The ebook market hasn't even hit its stride yet. Here are some things I'm looking forward to in the upcoming months and years:

Selling my Kindle ebooks on international Amazon websites (with translations in German, French, Chinese, and Japanese)
Selling my ebooks on Kobo and Borders
Selling my ebooks on Android
Google Editions
$99 Ereaders
Kindle being sold at Best Buy
Getting my numbers from Sony and Diesel
Releasing DRACULAS on October 19
Releasing SHAKEN on October 26

This ride has only just begun. I'll end 2010 having earned over $100k on my self-pubbed ebooks, and that's nothing compared to what I expect to make in 2011. And I'm doing it without touring, without promoting non-stop, without spending a lot of money, and without relying on anyone.

I don't expect the publishing industry to acknowledge this post. You won't read about my ebook sales in Publisher's Weekly. Agents won't mention it on their blogs. If you go to conferences and ask the editors you meet about J.A. Konrath and ebooks, you'll get blank stares, dismissals, or outright hostility.

I'll be at the Novels Inc. Conference in Florida, October 7-10, and that will be the last time I speak in public for at least a year. In the past few months I've turned down dozens of speaking engagements and interviews, and I will continue to turn them down. The amount of email I get from folks wanting ebook advice is daunting and impossible to wade through, so I'm not even bothering to try.

I spent 12 years trying to break into publishing, and 8 years doing everything I could to succeed. Now I'm finally able to write full time, which is what I've wanted to do all along. No more tours. No more appearances. No more accessibility to the entire world.

I'm not a motivational speaker. I'm not a teacher. I'm not a salesman. I'm not a dog and pony show. I'm not an outlier.

I'm a just a writer, dammit. And that's all I'm gonna be.

Don't you want to be just a writer, too?

222 comments:

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Ty Johnston said...

"Personally I don't believe that too many kindle buyers are busy comparing the price of a book in kindle version to the price of that same book in paper version."

Apparently you don't read the same forums I do on Amazon, B&N and at Kindleboards. There are tons of posts about this very thing. Readers ARE paying attention, and more than a few are complaining about paying the same price or a higher price for e-books.

Moses Siregar III said...

But don't dump on everyone in traditional publishing just because of a few sour experiences. There are a lot of good people working on a lot of good books, and since we're all readers too that has to be a good thing.

If you treat the indies the same way, then you've got a deal :D

Joe Konrath said...

But I don't think it's fair to spew such venom toward the entire industry because the bean counters at Hachette didn't blow enough candy your way.

If it were an isolated incident, I wouldn't harbor resentment. Everyone makes mistakes. And let's be clear--letting a series go that continues to make decent money is a mistake.

But there were many mistakes. I can name over a dozen things that Hyperion did, or failed to do, that hurt my sales and my career. Big things.

Ditto with Grand Central.

But even all of that didn't turn me against the industry.

I have a lot of professional friends. I heard their stories. Saw how they were mistreated. Dozens of them, with dozens of stories.

But even so, I still believed in the publishing industry.

Then this ebook thing came along. I figured it out pretty quick.

Publishers, on the other hand, have made mistake after mistake after mistake. And they continue to make mistakes.

The agency model. Inflating ebook prices. Windowing. Erights grabs. Poor royalties. Lies about ebook costs being the same as hardcover costs.

And all the while, I'm showing them how it's possible to adjust and thrive in this new environment. But rather than be taken seriously, I've been ignored, derided, insulted, dismissed, and vilified.

That's where I lost faith.

Jude Hardin said...

If you treat the indies the same way, then you've got a deal

Hell yeah. I'm all for quality lit, whatever the source.

Moses Siregar III said...

I don't normally like to mention my blog unless it's relevant to the discussion, but here's a post I just made about one of my favorite advanced writing tips, and maybe someone reading this will enjoy it.

Secrets of Better Writing: The Powers of 1, 2, 3, and 4-or-More

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

I saw you were mentioned on pub rants. So I guess all the agents aren't ignoring you. They're reading your blog, at any rate, which is something. Allowing the anon posts again is a good idea if you want these people to post. I can't imagine many of them wanting to reveal their identity if they disagree with you, (and worse, if they actually agree).

I really have no idea what the publishing industry is going to look like when all the dust settles. I think the agents will still have a job, after all, they still do in Hollywood and the music industry, and both of those industries have changed a lot.

evilphilip said...

After promoting it to my readers, my short story, Z is for Zombie, hit #28 in the Kindle list of short stories.

That is 32 spots above an anthology of Zombie stories that rejected the story. Heh.

To bring it back on topic, that is without any backing from traditional publishers. I'm not as anti-publisher as Joe, I feel that they will continue to bring value to authors in the future, but you can see from my success with one short story that you can make money on your own without any backing from the "Big 6".

Jude Hardin said...

I just saw the Trapped is #1 in the "occult" subgenre. Congrats!

Aaron Patterson said...

Funny how so many think it matters who publishes your book. Do you really think the reading public cares? I used to read 1-3 books a day and I don't know a one who the publisher was. I didn't care if it was a self pub or not. I just wanted a good story.

As to the hacks... you may call me a have but I make a living writing and do what most dream of... Doing is better...

The public will weed out the crap with reviews and mouth to mouth. This care over how the book got into print is crazy...

The future is books will be like vinyl... I'm sorry as well but that is just the way it is... we can sit around and call names and suck out thumbs or we can adapt and move on. The future writers will be the ones that can change.

Like a good friend of mine says, "I like the way I'm doing it better than the way your are not doing it."

Joe Flood said...

Thank you so much for breaking down the real economics of book publishing! There's so much misinformation out there about how e-books will doom book publishing. Posts like yours demonstrate that this is a great opportunity for writers to earn more money and for readers to get more books for less.

Anonymous said...

The traditional publishing industry has always been slow to adopt technology (or even change their procedures/contracts to match the 21st century). I believe that what you're going to start seeing is the traditional New York publishers falling by the wayside and being replaced by West Coast publishers to embrace technology and may even use ebook sales to drive going to print with popular titles. Will any of the traditional New York publishers survive? Maybe a few, but in this day and age the need to concentrate everything in one physical location (Wall Street is a perfect example-anything can be done from anywhere in the world electronically.

Sibel Hodge said...

A great post. I'm honoured to get a mention as one of the indie authors selling well on Kindle. It's exciting and encouraging to see so many other indie authors doing well.

When I first indie published on Kindle, I didn't know what to expect. Especially as in the UK, the ebook revolution hasn't yet taken off in the same way as the US.

Like many other new authors, I received hundreds of rejection letters. I came close to being traditionally published a couple of times, but both times one editorial group of readers couldn't agree, so it never quite worked out. At the time, a non US author couldn't publish on Kindle.

So there I was, rejected hundreds of times, feeling as if it would never happen for me. And then Amazon made it possible for non US indies to publish.

I've been overwhelmed by the response I've had, both to my novels, and other indie authors who are selling huge numbers of books. And the reason it's all been possible is because of the ebook revolution. The way companies like Amazon are keeping up with the change in the publishing industry is innovative and productive by providing an ebook platform like Kindle for indies.

Readers have more choice than ever, and fantastic authors who would never have had the chance to be published traditionally before are out there, getting their novels read. It's a win-win for everyone.

Demon Hunter said...

I'm convinced! Those numbers you posted are amazing. The big publishers are always telling us that what your posting is pretty much impossible.

Thanks so much for this post! Another wake up call for me just when I needed it.

First, I'm going to stop worrying so much about getting my books in print.I'll have my e-books in a few of those distribution places by Halloween.

Second, I had already decided to go indie but your post just put another nail in the coffin of me writing query letters again.

*goes to kill the query letters with fire*.

F'in awesome! Sweet freedom. :)

N. R. Williams said...

WOW! I have submitted my book by request for years only to be told, "We don't do fantasy any longer." or "We love it but it won't fit." I was so discouraged that I gave up. Then my friend, Lynda Hilburn, whom you mention, told me about her success on Amazon's kindle. I have now hired an editor and paid $250 for a book cover and hope to release my book as an e-book before the end of the year.

I am so encouraged by your success.
Nancy
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

LluĂ­s said...

Fortunately the internet has given back to the authors the ability of authoring. Eliminate the men in the middle is the best and the most direct way to earn money.

Anonymous said...

Is there a site that lists indie authors?

Stephen D. Sullivan said...

Thanks, Joe. I've been putting stuff up on Amazon for Kindle for a while, but reading you has given me new insight & direction. (This after 30 years in this crazy business.)

Again, thanks.

Tanya said...

In regards to disapointing sales on iPads. I have one and buy books thru amazon. I compare prices between iBooks and amazon - whoever is cheaper wins.

To date - I have yet to buy a book thru iBooks.

Further - I had a kindle and returned it. But love the versatility of the IPad. I still buy more paper but will buy the backlist of new authors I find...especially if the ebook price is good.

Rai Aren said...

Hi Joe,

I love your blog, I am learning so much. I sincerely appreciate how open you are with sharing information, it's really taking the blinders off. I've got oodles of ideas for future ventures :)

I would like to be added to your list of newbies selling several thousand books (with a debut novel). I'm at 3100 & counting, and I've sold more books in the last three months than in the previous 2 years (not sure why, other than I am very active online & maybe have gained a critical mass/presence?!). Secret of the Sands is now averaging over 500 eBooks/month, even though our publisher has it priced at $6.99 (which Amazon discounts to $5.59). Crazy! I have a fair size online platform that I regularly keep up with, and do a lot of work behind the scenes to help it gain exposure.

Also, I do have a co-author, so you can list both of our names if you like, but I do 100% of the marketing/promo/communications/strategy stuff, am the webmaster, etc.

Cheers & continued success!

Rai Aren, co-author of SECRET OF THE SANDS

www.secretofthesands.com

Rai Aren said...

P.S. I'm a hybrid indie - we self-pubbed the print version of Secret of the Sands, then we were picked up by our small-press eBook publisher in the days before Canadians could publish on kindle themselves. So, I may or may not qualify for your list, but I wanted to share our results none-the-less.

I have also asked our publisher to lower the price of the book to $4.95, as I shared the info that sales seem to get a boost with lower prices. She's agreed (yaay!), and the changes will be going into effect shortly, so it will be interesting to see what happens. I'm hoping sales continue to increase!

I'm not on Smashwords, but it's an option I am going to look into...

Cheers,

Rai

mike adword said...

I'm really, really happy for you. No one can say that you didn't work your ass off to get here.

And it's too bad you won't be doing any more speaking engagements. You've become a standard-bearer for the e-book movement (unwillingly). I would have loved to hear you speak in person.

Talen Ortz said...

Inspiring stuff.

Hope to one day be as successful an author

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