Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Bestseller Shift

In just a week, Amanda Hocking has sold over 10,000 ebooks.

Who is Amanda Hocking?

She's a self-published paranormal romance author. Check out her blog.

Not counting sales of Shaken, Afraid, or my Jack Daniels ebooks, I've sold about 2200 ebooks this week. And I've got about three times as many titles for sale as Amanda does.

Now, this isn't a competition, and writers should never compare their numbers, but I'm bringing Amanda's numbers up because I think it's indicative of a paradigm shift within the industry.

In the traditional publishing model, the most important factor in how many books sell is distribution.

A bestseller, by definition, has to sell a lot of books. In order to sell a lot of books, the book has to be available in a lot of places.

There's a chicken/egg thing happening here. Do authors become bestsellers, and then get huge distribution? Or is the huge distribution the reason they are bestsellers?

James Patterson is available in every airport, big box store, drugstore, supermarket, and non-bookstore outlet. Within the bookstores, his books get coop so they are available in mass quantities, for a discount.

Of course he sells a lot. If you're looking to read a thriller, often he's one of the only choices you have. The more places you are for sale, the more places you'll sell.

Some folks may say that Patterson sells well because he's an established brand. People know him, and that's why they buy him.

The multi-billion dollar advertising industry would like you to believe that it is essential to become a brand name, and for your product to become recognizable. Certainly Patterson has ad revenue behind him. He has TV commercials, for heaven's sake. It isn't difficult to draw a connection between how much he sells, and how well known he is, and advertising plays a part in how well known he is.

So let's get back to Ms. Hocking.

She has no name-recognition. If you look at her blog, she only has a few comments per post. She has no traditional publishing background, either.

Compare that to me, who has some name recognition, and a prior platform in the print world. I've been doing this longer than she has by years, have a large installed fanbase, have a blog that gets a million hits a year, and it's tough to find a discussion about self-pubbing or Kindle that doesn't mention me.

Yet Amanda is creaming me in sales.

So what's happening here?

What's happening, I believe, is a shift in how readers decide what to read.

The old distribution method of print books isn't valid in the ebook world. While Patterson can get into tens of thousands of retail locations with his books, his ebooks and Amanda's ebooks (and my ebooks) only have a few sales venues; Amazon, Apple, B&N, etc.

The playing field is even. On an even playing field, anyone can win.

While Patterson no doubt sells a good number of ebooks based on brand recognition, Hocking is a perfect reminder that a lot of things influence why people by things, not just a famous name.

Many items that aren't name brands can still sell very well. In fact, for every Sam Adams, there are dozens of popular microbrews who would perhaps give Sam a run for the money if they had wider distribution.

As ebooks take over as the dominant format for fiction, we're going to see a shift. Those who succeeded in the old print model will no doubt carry some of their fans along with them, but they'll see a drop in sales and profits, simply because their publishers price their books too high, give them too little in royalties, and because there is now a lot more choice for readers.

It's no longer a question of going to Walgreens and only having fifteen books to pick from.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, authors like Amanda Hocking, and Zoe Winters, and Karen McQuestion, and Selena Kitt, and Lorelei James, are making big money without the brand recognition, advertising, or distribution of James Patterson.

Years ago, publishers used to "grow" authors. They'd build them up, year after year, until they had a sizeable backlist, and then take a shot at the bestseller list by having a big print run and a big marketing campaign. Many of the authors you see on the NYT list got there through this method.

These days, authors can grow themselves. By writing good books with good covers, and pricing them low, readers can discover them.

No widespread distribution, advertising, coop, brand recognition, or famous name needed.

In the future, the bestseller lists won't be dominated by name authors.

They'll be dominated by good books.

138 comments:

Rex Kusler said...

I like the possibility of a shift back to shorter novels. With ebooks, it won't be necessary to stretch a 200 page mystery out to 650 pages so they can charge more.


www.rexkusler.com

Krista D. Ball said...

Rex, I *love* novellas and the greatest thing about epublishers (and self-publishing, too) is that length is length; it doesn't need to be shortened or stretched the way that print requires.

Many of the epublishers are asking, begging even, for novellas these days. Carina Press is actively looking for them. MuseItUp Publishing is always looking for short stories and novellas for those who don't want giant length novels to read.

I love to read and write novellas the most. It's really exciting that I have been able to find publishers for my shorter fiction in the epublishing world.

Mary McDonald said...

Oh, darn it. I thought you were going to let us in on the secret of her success. ;-)

I have no idea how many books Imogen Rose has sold with her Portal Chronicles, but I would bet thousands. She's another Indie with no previous connections and someone to keep an eye on.

Tony Southcotte said...

Its posts like this that make me have hope for my own work. I read a ton of posts from agents and editors, but none of them get me excited to write like your blog does.

For them its all doom and longshot and three years of querying to no avail. Here I am reminded that a quality product can find its way in a market and be extremely successful. Thanks for this post.

the watch said...

Fantastic and exciting.

But with a caveat.

Hocking, McQuestion, Konrath, Robinson, Kitt, and all these other successful new Kindle authors all have one thing in common: they're all commericial genre writers. Every last one, be it thrillers, mysteries, erotica, romance, vampire fiction, horror, it's all "dimestore fiction." Like the next Ellery Queen, the next Crichton, the next Koontz, the next Anne Rice, the next Steel, the next Twilight, whatever.

That's good, and this kind of work definitely has its place, and this is exciting and affirming. But it doesn't represent everything in fiction.

There is a glaring omission here. Nobody is out there with a Kindle book that would be better classified as the next Catcher in the Rye, the next Naked Lunch, the next Great Gatsby, the next Grapes of Wrath, the next All's Quiet On The Western Front, the next Pride and Prejudice, the next A Farewell to Arms.

There is only so much a phrase like "the next" works as a comparison but I think you get my point. Today, successful Kindle authors all write "commercial genre" stuff. Today there is also a "literary" category (for traditional publishers and university-run literary journals). But "commerical literary" work like the old classics I mention, they are not out there on Kindle, nor are they out there in the traditional publishing world more or less (you can argue that a few of today's "literary" stars fit the bill, but for the most part they are not commercial or popular at all).

Is commercial-but-literary writing just obsolete? Or will Kindle give finally give this stuff a chance? Or is there another option? Because I would like to read NEW work that's as good (and POPULAR or shall I say READABLE) as the books I mention above.

the watch said...

I guess my point is, here and there people are talking about how literature (literary fiction) is dead. There may more literary journals in existence today than ever, but nobody subscribes to them. Literary fiction is no longer printed in big commerical magazines (or on big commercial websites). So after reading about your great success, and about how commercial bestsellers can be made on the Kindle like this, I am just thinking out loud and wondering if the Kindle might also be able to bring back that kind of "commericial literary" book of the past.

Erin said...

Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. As a reader, I'm excited, because I think that the changes you suggest will benefit the readers most of all! As a writer? Well, I guess we'll just have to go with the flow and see what happens!

Joe Konrath said...

Semi-related note, this from PW:

e-book sales posted their slowest growth rates in 2010 in October. Still, sales jumped 112.4%, to $40.7 million, from the 14 publishers who reported results to the AAP's monthly sales program.

Anyone else see how myopic this is?

The 14 publishers who reported sales have reported a decrease in growth.

Actually, it might very well be a decrease in THEIR growth.

They aren't the only game in town anymore. I bet ebook sales have continued to grow. Just not for the Big 6.

Joe Konrath said...

wondering if the Kindle might also be able to bring back that kind of "commericial literary" book of the past.

I dunno. Franzen seems to be doing okay.

I believe there will always be room for good books, regardless of genre. But you can't write anything and expect it to be successful. Luck is always a factor.

Anonymous said...

Mmm, Sam Adams ...

Is it really a level playing field yet? I can't recall where I read it, and don't know if it's true, but supposedly the Big 6 pay Amazon to appear more frequently in their site searches and in the "customers who bought this also bought" section.

EC

Anonymous said...

I like the possibility of a shift back to shorter novels. With ebooks, it won't be necessary to stretch a 200 page mystery out to 650 pages so they can charge more.

Agreed. Check out how long the genre fiction was back in the day. For example, my copy of Hammett's Maltese Falcon runs 217 pages, and Chandler's Farewell My Lovely 249. Going back further Conrad's The Secret Agent is only 197 pages, and so on and so forth. There's so much fat in modern day mysteries and thrillers.

EC

Kae said...

Interesting information and comparisons, Joe; and bravo to Amanda!
@ the watch
Literary fiction isn't the popular norm, and has it ever been? eBook selections include literary fiction, old and new, but as you said, no one reads that much.
I wonder how many "literary fiction" books have been bestsellers in their year of inception? Anyone know?

WayneThomasBatson said...

Letting readers choose the next bestsellers...what a novel concept. Thank, Joe, as always for the timely information. As a midlist author myself, it's often hard to divide time for writing AND promotion. Knowing that writing a great book might just be enough is heartening to say the least. I'll be releasing my very first eBook just after the new year, a paranormal detective thriller. No print publisher this time. Just Kindle. I can't wait to see how it is received.

Pale Rambler said...

"The 14 publishers who reported sales have reported a decrease in growth."

I've worked in hotel sales for 10 years and this kind of thinking essentially runs the industry. Instead of focusing on how much over budgeted revenues they are, companies focus instead on the trending. You could have received 150% of the market share last June but if you get only 149% this June you better CYA ASAP. People actually lose jobs over this nonsense.

The PW story just as easily could have led with the 112% growth to $40 million and then mentioned in an aside the slower growth rate. Besides, "slowest growth rate" could still mean massive growth depending on what you're comparing it to.

Anyway, enough ranting. Thanks for the inspirational post!

Mark Feggeler

Merrill Heath said...

Krista, thanks for the tip on epublishers looking for novellas. I'm currently focused on writing a mystery series that will all be novellas. I can easily write 3 a year which is important since volume is a key factor in generating revenue.

Ironically, I was contacted by an agent recently who read the first book in my mystery series. She stated, "That you can write is evident. But I have to question why you are going with the shorter format. There is absolutely no market for books of that length right now."

I didn't bother to respond and suggest that short fiction is selling quite well in ebook format.

http://merrillheath.wordpress.com

Karen McQuestion said...

Thanks, Joe, for another great post. I've been following Amanda's success for some time and it thrills me to no end. Imagine that--a writer building a career solely on great stories and marketing savvy.

I agree with Mary McDonald--Imogen Rose is another author we're going to be hearing more about. When she becomes a household name I want to be able to say I saw it coming. :)

I do want to address a comment made by *the watch said,* which was that: "Hocking, McQuestion, Konrath, Robinson, Kitt, and all these other successful new Kindle authors all have one thing in common: they're all commericial genre writers. Every last one, be it thrillers, mysteries, erotica, romance, vampire fiction, horror, it's all 'dimestore fiction.'"

As the McQuestion in question (ha!) I have to say that this statement doesn't apply to me, as my books don't fit into any of the genres mentioned. My writing is more commercial than literary, but I think it's limiting to think only certain genres do well on Kindle. In fact, I think that's what readers like about a lot of the self-published books--they don't always fit neatly into slots.

Selena Kitt said...

"I can't recall where I read it, and don't know if it's true, but supposedly the Big 6 pay Amazon to appear more frequently in their site searches and in the "customers who bought this also bought" section."

---

That wouldn't surprise me. But they don't appear in my category. No one's paying for a slot in erotica. (No puns, please, really :)

But whoever spoke about genre fiction is 100% correct. The bestsellers are selling well in their specific category. Reading has become quite specialized and people gravitate to the little niches they like to read. Paranormal romance continues to sell like crazy, in spite of the rumors that it's overdone. That wave hasn't crested yet. Mystery/thriller/suspense will always sell well and isn't going to burn out (like paranormal may). Horror is going to do well, too. Not quite as well as mystery/suspense, but it will hold its own.

But when it comes down to it, you have to write a good book - but not just a good book. That's the caveat. You have to write a good book THAT PEOPLE WANT TO READ.

I was an English major. I hated The Great Gatsby. Talk about contrived plots! :P Loved Austen. (Early romance, as it were ;) Liked Slaughterhouse Five and Lord of the Flies. I read those books because they were "great literature" - but mostly because I had to.

Today, outside of school, people mostly read what they LIKE to read. The stat floating around is that HALF of all people ages 18-24 read NOTHING for pleasure. Nothing. No books. At all.

I'd rather have them reading Twilight or Zoe Winter's series fore pleasure - and finding their way backwards (and they usually will) to Austen, than being force-fed "great literature" and turned off reading altogether.

So yes, success is possible if you write a good book. But you have to write a good book that PEOPLE WANT TO READ. And like it or not - the people who are selling, whether you consider them "good" writers or not - are writing just exactly what people want to read.

Moses Siregar III said...

Novellas clearly have more of a place in indie e-publishing than with the major publishers, but I've been told that even people who read on their e-readers still very much prefer novels over novellas. Any opinions on this?

Most of the big indie success stories seem to come with novels rather than novellas--Zoe Winters being one of the exceptions to that rule, though I wonder: Would she be doing even better with novel-length works?

p.s. Joe, I was tempted to go and write a blog about Amanda yesterday, too LOL!

Mark Terry said...

An interesting perspective, as usual, and I agree with you about the PW numbers. I read it and thought, Uh, there's a distortion here in their stats.

Will there be a shift in book-buying and reading? I think it's possible, although there will probably always be readers who just want the brand name.

From my own perspective, my Kindle purchases have accelerated something I was doing anyway--reading more nonfiction books. Now I can wander through a blog or read a news article or whatever and see something to point to some topic I'm interested in and whereas I might have picked it up, now I'm very inclined to pop onto Amazon and download it. Which is why I'm reading 3 nonfiction books on the Kindle right now while reading 1 novel (yeah, an odd ratio and one I don't usually do).

Ride Your Way Lean by Selene Yeager
The Freelancer's Survival Guide by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years by Sonia Shah

All 3 on Kindle

Trust Me by Jeff Abbott (in hardcover)

In some ways I wonder if nonfiction books are replacing my magazine reading, simply by the ease of access on the Kindle.

M. Louisa Locke said...

As one of those unknowns who only has one book out yet, I can testify that something big's happening out there in the ebook buying hemisphere.

In August Maids of Misfortune averaged 11.1 books sold a day. In September, it averaged 14.4, in October 14.5, then on November 20th I started seeing numbers in 20's and 30's books sold a day, averaging for the month 17.8. The first week of December I sold 190 books-giving me an average of 27 books a day.

This means I made nearly $400 last week-just on Maids of Misfortune . Now this might be a holiday bump-we will see (although I haven't yet seen a month where I sold less than the month before since July when my historical mystery really took off.)

Or it may mean that there is a growing number of experienced ebook readers who understand the value of taking a chance on an unknown with good reviews and a high ranking when the price of the book is only $2.99 (which may be why the 14 publishers saw a slowing in increase-cause I certainly am not seeing any slowing!!)

I would like to hear from other self-published authors out there (cause we are the ones who actually know what our sales are day to day), if others saw a steep increase in the last 3 weeks?

Hope it is a universal trend!

Again, thanks Joe for playing a part in starting this revolution.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

the watch said, "Hocking, McQuestion, Konrath, Robinson, Kitt, and all these other successful new Kindle authors all have one thing in common..."

Thanks for the mention, although my sales figures are not quite in the league with the others. It's so exciting to see the way things are going for self-published Kindle writers.

Have you seen Mike Shatzkin's latest blog post? He believes there is about to be a major shift from print to ebook sales. "Things happen “gradually, then suddenly.” I think the next six months will make what we’ve been experiencing for the past year look very gradual. I know smart people who have thought for the past year that there would be some flattening coming soon in the ebook switchover. It doesn’t feel that way to me."

EC said, "Check out how long the genre fiction was back in the day. For example, my copy of Hammett's Maltese Falcon runs 217 pages, and Chandler's Farewell My Lovely 249. Going back further Conrad's The Secret Agent is only 197 pages, and so on and so forth. There's so much fat in modern day mysteries and thrillers."

I agree. My new mystery, Naked Frame, has a print length of 192 pages. I dare anyone to find an ounce of fat in it. Thanks to Joe Konrath's advice when I first started writing fiction, I always cut my prose to the bone, until the story moves relentlessly fast.

Jennifer Becton said...

Amen and amen! Go Amanda Hocking!

Rex Kusler said...

Look at Gregory Mcdonald's FLETCH. It's 208 pages, nearly all of it dialogue. In the '70s and '80s there were a lot of novels under 200 pages, some of them so thin I almost couldn't find them on the shelves.

Stephen Prosapio said...

"These days, authors can grow themselves."

-- And *must* grow themselves. I'm amazed talking to writer friends of mine who still think they'll write a novel, get an agent, sign a publishing deal, and then suddenly have the marketing backing that Stephanie Myers got. Not. Gonna. Happen.

What it means to "be a writer" has changed drastically in the last decade.

Watcher said...

To The Watch Said:
You seem to be implying that genre fiction can't be great literature. I'd say that in order to tell which is going to last a hundred years, we'll have to wait a hundred years. I'm sure that Sherlock Holmes was dismissed by many as popular genre literature when it came out. It seems to have lasted.
You're probably right, that we'll never have a "next" Catcher in the Rye. After all, what was the Catcher in the Rye the "next" of? Instead, we'll have something completely unique that breaks the mold, upsets a lot of traditional assumptions and is disdained because it's not "real" literature, and sets the new tone for the generations to come.

J.A. Paul said...

I've been following Amanda since she first published with Amazon. I think its her writing. Many of her fans compare her to Stephanie Meyer.

You might have just opened the door to big publishing for her.

Selena Kitt said...

"You might have just opened the door to big publishing for her."

Oh I think I'd give Amanda the credit for that ;)

Ty Johnston said...

M. Louisa Locke, sounds like my numbers and recent sales experience are right about where yours are, though I write epic fantasy for the most part.

My sales were actually somewhat weak early in November, the suddenly right before the Thanksgiving holiday they shot up and have been going decently ever since. Is it a holiday burst? I don't know. Hoping not, but I'll take what I can get.

Joe Konrath said...

You might have just opened the door to big publishing for her.

If big publishing comes knocking, they better give her a truckload of money. Millions. Or else it just isn't worth it for her.

Moses Siregar III said...

"Oh I think I'd give Amanda the credit for that ;)"

Yep, and she already has a respected literary agent, fwiw. I think she got an agent to deal with offers she got for foreign sales.

Nicole MacDonald said...

*WOOOOOOO* Go Amanda!! THis is exactly what we want to see. The buyers deciding the quality/taste/genre rather than publishers telling us what is 'popular'. Thats so awesome :)

BirthRight The Arrival, on Amazon 1.1.2011
www.damselinadirtydress.com

KevinMc said...

"If big publishing comes knocking, they better give her a truckload of money. Millions. Or else it just isn't worth it for her."

Funny, that was my first reaction, too! =) I mean, even if sales ONLY hold at half their current level for her... That's about 250,000 books per year, which is half a million dollars a year. Spread over ten years that's five million. Basically, any deal that takes her rights for that long and produces less than that for her that may simply not be worth it.

J. Viser said...

That's great news for Amanda and the ebook medium. Some of her success may be related to demographics. That is, it could be that younger, tech-savvy readers who do not have a predisposition to printed books are adopting ebooks faster than the general population. There's alot of older readers who still crave the "look, feel and smell" of a good book.

If younger readers (i.e., younger than 25) are adopting ebooks faster than older ones, then it makes sense that Amanda's books are selling fast. Paranormal romance is a genre read by her target audience of young women (like my 17 year-old daughter), who have already adopted the medium.

There's hope for the rest of us, as the rate of adoption for the Kindle and other e-reading devices rapidly increases, bringing in new (and older) readers.

Chrissy said...

I haven't yet heard about Amanda Hocking so I'm very glad I stumbled upon this blog. My sister is in love with Paranormal Romance type books. She read all the twilight books before the movie was out and has every buffy the vampire slayer book as well as movie ever published! I will have to check out what Amanda Hocking has to offer for X-mas!
I'm an avid reader of mystery/thriller romance. I love the romance. If there isn't romance in it, well I just wont turn the pages fast enough! Like in the book I just finished reading, by Peter Hoffmann in his newest book, Carnal Weapon. It's a great one to check out for those who are interested!

Chrissy said...

In fact, I just stumbled upon the link to Peter Hoffmann's Book. Sorry I didn't have a chance to post it in my previous message.
Learn more about Carnal Weapon here http://carnalweapon.com

Rex Kusler said...

Big publishing might come knocking--to ask her for blurbs for their traditionally published authors.

Heidi C. Vlach said...

I've heard it said that when it comes to the Internet, if you can't find it, it doesn't exist. It's also been said that if you do find something that doesn't exist on the Internet, you should go ahead and create it. Some really weird, unexpected stuff ends up becoming popular just because it has a chance to exist and be shared. Who would have thought that cat macros could become such a pop culture staple?

An even playing field is important for that. I shudder to think of blogs or websites having to match a few professionals' opinions of what everyone wants to read. So it's great to hear that ebooks really are a level field as well, and that an author with so little conventional publishing clout can do so well in sales.

KevinMc said...

@J. Viser: Actually, the highest percentage of Kindle users (Feb 2010 data) was 38.4% who were 35-54, and 37.3% 55 and older. Only 2.2% were 17 and under. We're seeing a huge percentage of older users adopting ereaders!

@Robinson: ""Things happen “gradually, then suddenly.” Concur. I read somewhere (can't verify the data unfortunately) that the "90/10" rule is in effect - 10% of US readers buy 90% of the books sold here. If that's true, what happens when/if those 10% start all adopting really rapidly?

@The Literary Discussion:
Personally, I think the title of "literary fiction" was a misnomer from the start. What we call literary fiction today does have its own style, pace, format - just like every other genre does. But I think we need to consider 'literary' today a genre just like mystery, or fantasy. It'll see downward and upward trends, like most genres do. And it'll suffer when most of the best literature is being written in other genres, like it is right now. People tend to go where the good stories are being told.

Ellen O'Connell said...

Moses Siregar III said... "but I've been told that even people who read on their e-readers still very much prefer novels over novellas. Any opinions on this?"

My personal taste runs to novels, but I think this is one of the areas where ebooks give every reader the chance to have a great selection of what she wants to read and every author a chance to publish what she wants to write.

My two historical romances are longer than what I believe is commonly published these days (118,000 and 134,000 words, respectively), and they are in a subgenre that's not at all in style (western). Yet they are selling well and developing a reader base.

So if most romance readers want shorter, they can find them. If some readers want longer, they can find me. No gatekeeper is sitting there saying nothing short, nothing long, only medium as I define medium. Ain't it great?

John D said...

Actually, the highest percentage of Kindle users (Feb 2010 data) was 38.4% who were 35-54, and 37.3% 55 and older. Only 2.2% were 17 and under.

A couple weeks ago, I asked my 15 year old daughter how many of her friends have Kindles. Her response was, "What's a Kindle?" So I guess it'll be another year or so before the younger generation catches up with the old folks. But it will happen, and when it does...

jtplayer said...

Re: "They aren't the only game in town anymore. I bet ebook sales have continued to grow. Just not for the Big 6."
------------

I guess we'd know a lot more if Amazon would release hard numbers.

But they won't...a fact I find curious.

Ty Johnston said...

Usually its the younger folks who tend to adopt new technology soonest, so ... this makes me wonder if dedicated e-readers are something that won't be of interest to the younger crowd. Not saying it can't or won't be, but I'm wondering if maybe they're just fine using other gadgets (phone, tablets, etc.) for reading longer works.

KevinMc said...

Might well be the case, Ty. But - we're already seeing good android phones (which can easily double as ereaders) going for free with a two year contract.

Archos has a couple of solid android tablets out for about $200 right now.

And every major electronics company out there is working on a tablet for 2011 release right now. These are going to be THE big thing, next year. My guess is that by the end of 2011, we'll be seeing free tablets with a 2-year contract for 3G internet.

KevinMc said...

@JT
Won't, or haven't yet? Neilsen is hoping to track ebook sales via Bookscan soon, and the NYT plans to launch a bestseller list for ebooks in early 2011. So I'd have to guess that they've found some way to work with Amazon on this.

Helen Hanson said...

In the print days, readers had to wait for their favorite authors to pump out that next book. Now they can instantly find another author that might become a favorite, and with modest e-book prices, they can afford to read everything on the author’s shelf.

Maybe they went looking for Stephanie Meyers and met Amanda along the way. Either way, she’s got them now. Congratulations, Amanda!

Another fascinating spotlight on an indie success. Thanks, Joe! You really do keep the troops rallied!

My novel went live on Kindle yesterday for my birthday! My sales are in single digits, but it feels like the top of the mountain!

Now, back to work . . .

Anonymous said...

Great news for Amanda. I wonder where she's selling them though. I see she's on Amazon and Smashwords, selling her e-books for .99 or 2.99. I just checked her Amazon stats for the first week of December and noticed she sold approx. 750 copies of her seven novels, a far cry from 10,000. Still a lot better than many writers.

Chuck said...

What did Amanda Hocking do, exactly, to gain attention on the web, Joe? What did she do that differs from your process ?

ruth said...

Congratulations to Amanda! Hers is wonderful news for readers -- and writers.

Her success also means we can look to much more interesting bestseller lists -- not just the stale rehash of The Usual Suspects over and over. And over.

Epub is a blast of fresh air into a stagnant business that was (and still is) desperate for something new and exciting.

Ruth Harris
author of NYTimes bestseller
Husbands & Lovers http://amzn.to/ft97O7

josephrobertlewis said...

It's always great to hear these indie author success stories.

And hey, I'm an indie author with no fan base or coherent marketing plan and I've been...oh right, fairly unsuccessful thus far. Darn it.

Chris Stedman said...

Amanda, those are fantastic numbers. I can only hope to get the numbers that you and Joe have. Have patience Chris.

Ellen Fisher said...

"I just checked her Amazon stats for the first week of December and noticed she sold approx. 750 copies of her seven novels, a far cry from 10,000."

Anon, as far as I know it is not possible for you to check her Amazon sales figures-- those are private info. I'm guessing you checked NovelRank, which guesses (wildly) at the sales numbers, using algorithms based on the sales rankings. NovelRank is way, WAY off on sales figures, and is not a reliable way to know what anyone is selling, particularly if they sell a lot of books.

Derek J. Canyon said...

M Locke said: "I would like to hear from other self-published authors out there (cause we are the ones who actually know what our sales are day to day), if others saw a steep increase in the last 3 weeks?"

I released Dead Dwarves Don't Dance almost three weeks ago. I'm not doing as well as you, just getting about 2 sales a day.

But, this is better than my previous release (a short story anthology).

Whether this has to do with me releasing a new book, my spending on advertising, or some kind of holiday bump, I can't say.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I like the theory that 'good' books will doiminate the market rather than 'name' books. Sure I have my favorite authors and I pick up most of their books but there are some who are spewing out books that are the same as the ones before.
I hope the ebook market does open it up for some good writers to make who might not have with the traditional methods.
And for the age factor someone mentioned above about ereader users, everytime I'm in a Borders or B&N the people I see at the ereader counter are older. Go Baby Boomers!

Anonymous said...

"In just a week, Amanda Hocking has sold over 10,000 ebooks."

I'd like to see the backup for that statment.

Moses Siregar III said...

For the curious, she says she's sold those 10,000 books through Amazon, B&N, and Createspace. She does very well on B&N, too.

Joe Konrath said...

I'd like to see the backup for that statment.

LOL. Some anonymous guy wants proof.

Como se dice irony?

Joe Konrath said...

@Anon.

Okay, finally stopped laughing.

Visit BN.com. Check her rankings. Unlike Amazon, which ranks ebooks separately, BN groups them all together, and her books are in the 100s.

On Amazon, which sells more, she's ranked even higher.

Based on my experience with sales and rankings, she's easily selling 1300 a day between the two sites, spread among seven books. That's only 100 a day per book per site, and I've matched and also surpassed that with certain titles.

Zoe Winters said...

Moses said:

Most of the big indie success stories seem to come with novels rather than novellas--Zoe Winters being one of the exceptions to that rule, though I wonder: Would she be doing even better with novel-length works?

We shall find out! :) I've got a novel coming out next. Though my novels will run to the shorter end... 70-75k words. I just don't like overwritten books.

And thanks for the shout out, Joe!

Also, to the person who is checking NovelRank, then deciding Amanda is inflating her sales numbers... LOLOLOLOL. I absolutely believe Amanda's numbers because her consistently high sales rankings across a few different retailers gel with those numbers. As someone who has had some high rankings myself, I know what those rankings translate to in general terms as far as sales numbers. I absolutely believe her numbers.

And to the person (don't know if it's the same person or not) who wants independent verification of her numbers, I'm pretty sure she's not going to show you her bank statements. That's private and she has a right to that privacy. I'm also pretty sure that while she's laughing all the way to the bank she doesn't care if you don't believe her.

Zoe Winters said...

And wow, I didn't know sales on B&N were ranked without separating out the ebooks. That's fairly awesome!

Also, the irony of an anonymous poster asking Amanda Hocking to verify anything totally flew by me. LOL!

Dodge Winston said...

This is positive news... as most ebook news is these days. There is so much room for growth in this industry. It really is wide open. Just you wait; someday ereaders will be as popular as cell phones. Then some serious money will be made for those lucky enough to become popular with their writing:)

Anonymous said...

I followed Joe's link to Amanda's blog and noticed something worth thinking about.

How is it possible that a young author of very popular YA genre fiction can have a blog that she frequently updates, yet only a handfull of readers? Wouldn't you think that her fans would show up there too?

This question is not meant to be snarky, I have no doubts about the numbers, etc., but I wonder what all the authors think of this.

Anonymous Steve

Amanda Hocking said...

Hi. Thanks, Joe, for the shout out. It's neat, surprising, and weird all at the same time.

Because where I started eight months ago, reading your blog, thinking, "Hey, maybe I can do something. Not as good Joe, of course, but I bet I can sell a few copies." So, in a weird way, this is like being an aspiring actress and having Meryl Streep say something nice about me.

Anyway - as to people who speculated about my sales, I posted a blog with screen shots. I know I don't need to, but I don't want internet rumors saying I'm making stuff up. So you can check out my blog if you want some proof, but that's all the proof I've got. Other than my rankings.

As to other things people said - I write YA, but most of my readers are women between the ages of 25-40 (based on fan mail and comments I get). The teenagers that do read my books tend to be from other countries and/or read them on their phones.

I do not have a lot of visitors at my blog. Not sure why. My facebook fan page does alright, my Twitter's okay, and I get lots of emails.

I think writing in a popular genre does help, but that's true no matter how publish. But like Karen McQuestion - who is more literary - is still doing quite well for herself.

And something else - the only reason people know how well I'm doing is because I said how well I'm doing. That means that there are authors out there doing as well as me or much better, but they aren't saying it.

So that's all. Thank you to everybody for the congratulations and support. :)

author Scott Nicholson said...

Anonymous Steve, there's "platform," but if your platform is the books, why shouldn't the readers and writer simply meet in the books? Some people like Seth Godin and Joe here have a whole dynamic going, of which books are only part. People like Amanda talk about what interests her--you can hardly ever find her promoting. So part of the new paradigm might be readers can create the buzz without anyone else's help.

I think great literary novels of this generation will absolutely be launched on the Kindle by indies, but those are the kinds of things that take years to anoint.

And, clearly, the bestseller lists are no longer a thing to be bought as they have been for decades.


BTW Amanda's posted her numbers at http://amandahocking.blogspot.com

Scott Nicholson

Lundeen Literary said...

Those numbers are astonishing... Yeah, the big 6 probably are seeing a levelling off in their sales. I really feel bad sometimes for folks who work at traditional publishing houses owned by massive corporations. They aren't allowed to really love something and go with their gut - to take a chance. It's all about the Benjamins... :(

@Rex and @Krista - some of my favorite books are novellas, but originally printed as books in the late 70's when such things were actually done. Now, you can only find them printed as a collection. I find that sad, but am also super excited about how novellas are gaining new ground and life!

@The watch said...

You said "Nobody is out there with a Kindle book that would be better classified as the next Catcher in the Rye".

How do you know? I guarantee that these books are out there and will be on Kindle if they aren't now. These sort of amazing books don't just get immediately recognized.

Margaret Atwood swears she doesn't write Sci Fi, but I seriously beg to differ - she just writes very high quality sci fi with a literary feel or commercial literary fiction in a sci fi setting. Some of her work *could* be classified as genre fiction, as could some works by Walter Tevis, Kazuo Ishiguro, and other modern literary giants. These authors have written some of my favorite Sci Fi ever, and they would not be known as Sci Fi authors.

Yes, pigeonholing books into genres is a pain in the ass, but many books defy the genres they're placed in. Some books/authors create a genre (I'm thinking Jane Austen here). Hell, the Regency romance subgenre exists because Jane Austen, and I'm sure that was considered trashy general fiction when it first came out.

Just because genres exist for marketing purposes, and those genres sell well, don't be so certain that there are no good commercial literary titles coming out for Kindle. Be of faith!

@Amanda - CONGRATULATIONS!!! :D I'm glad your hard work is paying off. I'm going to go subscribe to your blog now. :)

Jenna
www.lundeenliterary.com

Simon Royle said...

To the Anons:

Scott beat me to it, but could you please send us a photo of you eating humble pie,

Thanks

PS. It's OK you can hide your face with the pie

Anonymous said...

@ Amanda, I hope you didn't take my comment as a knock. I'm just thinking about the new dynamic of authors being so accessible to readers, and wondering why the readers wouldn't flock to those blogs. I guess I'm stereotyping YA fans (stupidly, since it's something I know little about). Fascinating that your demo is more 25-40.

Thanks again for posting all your insights and info. Very helpful. And congrats on reaching so many people with your books. Really awesome.

Also, I saw on your blog that you don't like doing covers. That's too bad because your very good at it. Your covers really stand out in the stream.

-anonymous Steve

Selena Kitt said...

It's kind of funny/strange but a lot of YA fiction is being read by young (and even not so young :) women.

I'm intrigued by Amanda's numbers - because I'm noticing B&N selling a lot more of my books lately. And considering the possible Borders buyout, that makes things even more interesting.

How are you selling at B&N, Joe? Are things picking up over there for you? Are they coming close to your Kindle numbers?

Jason said...

Here's what I find most interesting about Amanda's numbers, looking at just the B&N doc she posted.

Amanda sold 9479 units of SWITCHED at $.99 each. That's $9384.21 in sales x 40% royalty = $3753.68 profit for her.

She sold 4568 units of TORN at $2.99 each. That's $13658.32 in sales x 65% royalty = $8877.91.

SO, she sold half as many copies of TORN, yet made twice as much money with it vs. SWITCHED.

Methinks this shows how much of a sweet spot the $2.99 price point is for an e-author for making money. I believe the $.99 price point should be used soley to snag new readers, as Amanda did with SWITCHED. Now they'll always be willing to pay the higher price for everything else she puts out. But I also wonder how many copies of SWITCHED she would have sold had it always been priced at $2.99?

In January I'd love to see her numbers for the full month of December. I'm curious how much of a bump in sales she'll get from the JA-Blog exposure.

Rebecca Ryals Russell said...

YAY! I'm all for good books being the top sellers. Enough with the same top sellers getting there by name recognition whether the book is any good or not. Or worse yet, being put there by the Big Boys with money.

Joe Konrath said...

How are you selling at B&N, Joe?

I go through Smashwords, which hasn't reported the latest quarter yet.

I only make 60%, instead of 70%, but if the money starts getting big I'll go through PubIt.

Selena Kitt said...

"I only make 60%, instead of 70%, but if the money starts getting big I'll go through PubIt."

Have to be careful switching, because B&N pays on list price and then discounts. But knowing you, you could negotiate a different contract ;)

Karen McQuestion said...

Jason, I loved that you did the rundown on Amanda's sales ( I love statistics) and I agree that it would be interesting to see what the Joe effect does for her in terms of increased sales, but I'm afraid it would be almost impossible to quantify. Her sales have increased every month as it is--how much of it would you credit to the exposure on this blog (and not say, Christmas Kindles)? Even looking at the days after the blog was posted may not be accurate, as readers often download a sample but don't actually buy the book for days or weeks later. It's too bad, because it would be cool to know.

After Joe interviewed me last spring, my sales did go up somewhat, and I got a slew of emails. Most of them were from other writers and some were from media requesting interviews, which was awesome. Being on Joe's blog led to other things for me and I'm grateful for that.

Lundeen Literary said...

@Simon
"PS. It's OK you can hide your face with the pie"

ROFL!! You're hilarious! :D

@Selena - Isn't it crazy how Joe gets things done that can't be done? Like getting non-boilerplate contracts with companies who SWEAR they don't accept contract mods? Yanno, I wish I had Joe's mojo... Maybe I need to take a leaf out of his book and not take no for an answer.

Jenna
www.lundeenliterary.com

Christy Pinheiro said...

I asked my 15 year old daughter how many of her friends have Kindles."

Teens don't use e-readers. They typically read on their smartphones, ipads, or tablets. I think that's more because it's in color, and also because they already have access to the electronic device (they already own the tablet or the phone).

A Kindle is a read-only device, and I think that teens want something that does EVERYTHING.

Anyhoo, I love this post. Congrats Amanda! A month ago, I didn't know who you were, and just last night, I talked to an author friend about you for over an hour. Your ears must have been buzzing.

I'm still plodding along with my non-fiction and my numbers aren't nearly as exciting (pooh). But I'm still on track to make over 120K this year.

If I can do it, anyone can!

Aaron Polson said...

Okay, here's the rub...it's been mentioned, but nobody comes out with a clear answer:

How does one fight obscurity?

This isn't Field of Dreams. A great cover doesn't mean squat if people don't look for it in the first place.

Joe, you had a great post a couple of weeks ago (Monetize it) which concluded with the following words: "What's the new biggest enemy? Obscurity. But that's a blog topic for another day..."

So really, how does one fight that particular enemy? How did Amanda Hocking do it? How about the other Amanda Hockings who haven't been discovered, or will the "New World Order" ultimately find them, too?

John D said...

Teens don't use e-readers. They typically read on their smartphones, ipads, or tablets.

Actually, based on my personal observations and several conversations with my daughter, the typical teen is apparently still reading books the old fashioned way. I'm sure this will change in the near future, and when it does there'll be a major spike in ebook sales. And when they do adopt electronic reading in large numbers, they probably will gravitate to the multi-use devices you cited (especially smartphones). I just find it amusing that this tech-savvy generation is a step behind the "old folks", even if only in this one respect.

Aaron Polson said...

I'd have to agree with John D - I teach HS English, and most of the books the kids read are traditional paper. Granted...most of them are from the school library.

They use their phones, etc. for "other" things.

Ellen Fisher said...

"Teens don't use e-readers."

My fifteen-year-old does. She uses her Kindle all the time.

Jeff Pert said...

As an artist, I'm all for writers earning more from their works than the publishers, studios, distributors, what-have-you. But when it comes to writing, when I plunk my money down, I expect a certain level of quality. Is it my understanding with e-books that you write something (albeit to the best of your ability) and slap it up online to be purchased? I haven't read anything published only as an e-book, so I don't know. But it's my firm belief EVERY writer, no matter how accomplished, popular or rich, needs an editor. My biggest fear is, if books do go totally electronic in my lifetime (which I'm praying doesn't happen---I have nothing against the electronic format, I just like solid paper in my hands), any old amateur who's convinced they're F. Scott Fitzgerald will be posting tons of crapola, and then it becomes a job for the reader to separate the wheat from the chaff. A job I, frankly, am not interested in doing. Most of the posts here see the publishing industry as the enemy, but there's a reason editors exist; and without the publishing industry before e-books, nobody would be reading hard copy books OR ebooks.

Thanks for listening.

Fran Yoakum Veal said...

Selena Kitt said, "Today, outside of school, people mostly read what they LIKE to read. The stat floating around is that HALF of all people ages 18-24 read NOTHING for pleasure. Nothing. No books. At all."

I believe that the Accelerated Reading programs in most schools are the primary culprits here. Kids are required to read X number of books per grading period. From what I've seen personally, and in talking to other parents, alot of kids are absolutely sick of reading by the time they hit middle school. Tragic.

Norma Beishir said...

You have the best blog I've seen on publishing! I've been a writer (professionally) for twenty-two years, and I'm still learning. Mostly from your blog!

Anonymous said...

Great post! I've been reading Amanda's books ever since she released the first "My Blood Approves" books and I've been hooked ever since. Her books seem to be getting better and better with each one that she releases, so I can see why she's having such success. I especially love the "Switched" books...who knows, with her luck maybe they'll turn those into movies!

Anonymous said...

@Jeff,

You're right, of course, about editing and professionalism. And I think if you stick around here you'd find that no one disagrees with you.

That said, of course there will be a lot of bad stuff out there. The "out there" we're talking about is the Internet. There's a lot of everything thing out there, good and bad.

As with everything else in the world, quality will rise, mediocrity will persist, and complete crap will attract very few.

Amanda Hocking's story is a perfect example. People really like her books. They sell. I don't think there is much likelihood of someone uploading their awful, error ridden ramblings, then successfully tricking thousands of people into buying it.

Obviously, if your book is traditionally published, then it has been validated by the fact that somebody besides the author thought enough of it to invest time and money in publishing it. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's better than one that has not received that validation. It certainly doesn't mean it's better than something that readers actually love. Amanda is successful because people who bought one book wanted to come back for more.

The idea that "anybody can do that" is kind of silly. Everybody has the opportunity, sure. But writing a good book is hard. We've all got the right to try. But succeeding is a whole different game.

-anonymous Steve

Sarra said...

Go Amanda! I've been following her career, much the same way she said she's been following yours. I long for the kind of success she's had. I just put my first YA book up on Kindle, Smashwords and B&N at the end of October and posted my first month's sales on my blog. As of today, I've sold about 250 copies of that first book - definitely modest, but climbing. My second book comes out December 20th, and I'm anxious to see what happens with 2 books out in the same series. I am excited about self-publishing and the rise in ebook sales. Seeing Amanda Hocking do as well as she is just makes me that much more excited!

Joe Konrath said...

How does one fight obscurity?

If there were a firm answer to this, every book would be a bestseller.

I've long extolled the importance of luck. Luck played a part in success in the print world, and it plays a part in the e world.

In the print would, you needed to be anointed by a publisher and get a big advance, print run, and marketing campaign. Barring that, you could be discovered by booksellers, or even readers. You could catch a lucky media break (Oprah). But it involved things beyond your control.

With ebooks, it all comes down to readers finding you, then buying you.

I've talked at length about how the book, cover, and blurb all need to be good, and the price low. That improves your chances at being found.

But these isn't any secret or even reason to why something sells way. We can point to reasons AFTER something becomes successful, but that is moot because it wasn't predictive.

Why is Stieg Larsson so popular? I have no idea. I can't figure it out.

The DaVinci Code was a phenomenon. Chick lit had a big run. So did vampires. YA and paranormal romance and zombies are hot right now. But for every breakout writer, there are hundreds who remain obscure.

The only thing to do is keep writing good books and hope you'll eventually find an audience. Which is a lot better than trying to impress the book buyer at Borders, or the sales reps at your publisher, or the reviewer for the NYT.

Selena Kitt said...

Here's another guy who's selling ebooks like hotcakes and proving that Joe isn't such an anomaly... ;)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-coker/indie-ebook-author-brian-_b_794433.html

Joan P. Cooley said...

Cheers to both Joe and Amanda! You guys inspire me!!! I hope the ebook of my romance novel ROCK CHARISMA does half as well as yours.

--Joan P. Cooley

Mark Asher said...

"Actually, based on my personal observations and several conversations with my daughter, the typical teen is apparently still reading books the old fashioned way. I'm sure this will change in the near future, and when it does there'll be a major spike in ebook sales. And when they do adopt electronic reading in large numbers, they probably will gravitate to the multi-use devices you cited (especially smartphones). I just find it amusing that this tech-savvy generation is a step behind the "old folks", even if only in this one respect."

I'm guessing it's because kids have little desire for a dedicated e-reader. Really, how many kids do you see hungry for books?

And some of the more popular books, manga, graphic novels, etc., don't work so well on Kindles. And Rowling isn't in ebook format yet.

Heck, a friend just got a Nook color and wanted to load it up with some Goosebumps books for her kid who has started to read these, and they are not available in ebook format.

I don't think kids see anything exciting about e-readers at this time. They want smartphones, laptops, etc.

Moses Siregar III said...

Here's another guy who's selling ebooks like hotcakes and proving that Joe isn't such an anomaly... ;)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-coker/indie-ebook-author-brian-_b_794433.html


Btw, it looks like his standard price on his Kindle books is $5.95.

Christy Pinheiro said...

And Rowling isn't in ebook format yet.

Yeah, that's because she's a fool. Rowling doesn't "like" ebooks because she thinks they encourage piracy, while all her books were pirated the day after their release.

So instead of selling millions of ebooks, Rowling decided that killing millions of trees was, somehow, a better choice. And it still didn't stop anyone from breaking the spine on her book, popping the pages into a scanner, and selling a pirated PDF.

Stephen Prosapio said...

I love this blog and specifically the comments section. And even more specifically *this* comments section! I've been following multiple, multiple online discussions and blogs etc for several years and this particular comments section has been the single most diverse and interesting as I've ever seen!

Thanks goes to all of you, especially JA. Congrats to Amanda!

jtplayer said...

Re: "Yeah, that's because she's a fool"
------------

That's damn funny man...if Rowling's a fool then I want to be one just like her.

Btw...you mentioned killing trees with regards to printed books. So you think the environmental impact of plastic and batteries and electronic components inside an ereader are somehow better?

Not to mention the infrastructure and resources required to support the servers that transmit and store all of those digital files.

Sure...ereaders are gonna save the environment. Tell me another one.

Moses Siregar III said...

Btw...you mentioned killing trees with regards to printed books. So you think the environmental impact of plastic and batteries and electronic components inside an ereader are somehow better?

I've read an article about this and the conclusion was something like if you eventually buy 50 ebooks that you would've bought in paperback then the ereader is more environmentally friendly than buying dead tree books.

However, the article didn't differentiate between different types of ereaders and it may have been basing that figure off of an iPad because it seemed a bit slanted anti-ebook. I would guess that an iPad would have a more negative ecological impact than a Kindle, Nook, etc. (for one, an iPad is larger).

This, btw, is one reason I decided not to upgrade to a Kindle3. I want to get as much usage out of my Kindle2 as possible before buying another newfangled contraption.

jtplayer said...

I've read similar stories regarding the "positive" environmental impact of ereaders.

I call bullshit on that. The batteries alone are an ecological nightmare with regards to disposal.

In fact, the disposal of all of our electronic devices, such as cell phones, computers, televisions, etc. is a huge problem that most folks completely overlook.

That's the dirty little secret with hybrid autos as well. The manufacture and disposal of the batteries required to power a car is a total mess.

Facts are facts.

I'm not saying the process to manufacture a printed book is a clean one. But don't try to sell me on the idea that ebooks and ereaders are completely green and environmentally friendly.

Zoe Winters said...

@Christy

Rowling is a brilliant writer but a horrible business person at least in regards to digital books. Though I'm not sure you can call anyone a smart business person who thinks if you say la la la and stick your fingers in your ears technology goes away.

@Joe

My sales on B&N didn't get good until I used the PubIt platform. And it was a direct result of using the PubIt platform vs. distributing through SW that my sales went up. You told me I was throwing a lot of money away on 99 cents. So I'm returning the favor. Take the advice or don't. :)

jtplayer said...

So why in the hell should Rowling or any other mega rich bestselling author embrace new technology?

Because they need the extra income?

And as far as Rowling being a good or bad business person, I'm pretty sure she has people on the payroll these days who handle those things for her.

KevinMc said...

Zoe, why do you think the PubIt switch made a difference? (New at this, but looking for advice!) I would have thought the PubIt name on the B&N screen might be a negative, might be associated with amateurism by some readers. Do they list PubIt published books differently or something? Thanks!

Zoe Winters said...

@Joe, also if I came off extra-snarky in my last comment, it wasn't intentional. I'm in a pretty pissy mood right now. Has nothing to do with you or anyone on this comment thread, but I shouldn't let that slip into comments I make to others.



@Kevin, the benefit with PubIt is being able to properly categorize your books, use more keywords, and have a longer (and therefore better search-engine friendly description). It's my understanding that Mark Coker (Smashwords) either has solved the category issue at B&N or is working on it. But at the time I was on B&N that was I was selling horribly and part of it was that I was just categorized in "ebooks" with no categories, and I had a 400 character description limit (something that is still an issue at SW). In short, unless you were going to B&N actively looking for Zoe Winters, you weren't going to find me.

When I got my stuff up through PubIt, I spent 5 weeks with all of my novells staying in the top 200 in sales rank.

Joe Konrath said...

You may have convinced me, Zoe.

How hard is it to remove your books from Nook on Smashwords? I assumed PubIt won't allow you to post them if they're already live...

Mark Asher said...

I think more tablets like the Nook color will get kids more interested in e-readers.

First, it's color! That's powerful.

Second, it does more than just display books. You can surf the web, listen to music, and play videos.

Parents have already been shown that they are willing to buy personal DVD players for kids. Cut down tablets like the Nook color half the size of the iPad may find a market with teens if they can get the price down further.

I think in a few years we won't see dedicated e-readers for sale. They will all be multimedia consumption devices.

KevinMc said...

@Mark: Just wait. 2011 will be the year of the tablet, just like 2009 was the year of the netbook. Apple is gearing up with plans to sell 30 million ipads in 2001 (three times what they are estimated to have done this year). Archos already has a couple of android tablets for about $200, and has more on the lineup for early 2011. And pretty much every major electronics/computer maker on the planet is launching their own tablet in Q1-2 2011.

We're already seeing concerted arrangements with 3G providers, giving about $300 off on Samsung's new tablet for a two year contract. It's likely that by the end of 2011, we'll see some tablets go free with a 2-year internet contract. Oh, yeah, I agree. We might see as many tablet sales next year as cell phone sales.


@Zoe - thanks for the tips and explanation. Much appreciated!

Wendy Kehoe said...

Awesome Amanda! And Joe, thanks for this post.

We were pretty excited to see the Kindle ad on TV the other night aimed at kids(a grandmother giving her grandson a Kindle for Christmas)! We are hoping and expecting that those clever, techie kids and teenagers will soon be joining the digital reader trend. We have 7 ebooks available and will have 10 by the end of the year.

Also, Mark Asher...I agree that the color Nook is going to get kids excited about ereaders! And it's interesting that RL Stine hasn't yet released his Goosebumps series as ebooks, but does have some Fear Streets (pink lipstick and cheerleaders and all) available on Kindle. Might I suggest that your friend turn to the books of O. Penn-Coughin, much creepier and scarier?

It's such an exciting time to be an Indie author and publisher! As always, thanks Joe!

Wendy Kehoe
You Come Too Publishing
youcometoo.com

Selena Kitt said...

"I assumed PubIt won't allow you to post them if they're already live..."

You'd be wrong to assume that actually. We originally got on Barnes and Noble (before Smashwords had them) through the Fictionwise feed. But they only included some of our books and never got around to the rest. Eventually, we got the rest published through PubIt. So now I have some through the Fictionwise channel, and some through PubIt. I haven't been able to get B&N (or FW) to respond to inquiries, so I just decided to try to publish my FW books through PubIt, and then tell them to take down the old ones. (Figured they might respond quicker if I told them there were duplicate tiles ;) They approved them and put them on sale yesterday.

So you could try pubbing them through PubIt first, Joe, and take them off distribution with Smashwords. SW will get to taking them down eventually.

One of Zoe's awesomest tricks was putting the category in the TITLE of your book. B&N's search engine is nowhere as good as Amazon's. But if you put your category in your title - ex: Shaken (A Joe Konrath mystery) or Trapped (A Kilborn Horror Thriller) - you're going to get better search results.

I changed one of my titles to include "An Erotic Tale" three days ago. My rankings for that one went from 10K to 300 in three days.

Moses Siregar III said...

Like I said, jt, that article seemed anti-ereaders from an ecological standpoint.

...

Okay, I found it. I'll quote part of it and then give the link:

"So, how many volumes do you need to read on your e-reader to break even?

With respect to fossil fuels, water use and mineral consumption, the impact of one e-reader payback equals roughly 40 to 50 books. When it comes to global warming, though, it’s 100 books; with human health consequences, it’s somewhere in between."

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/04/04/opinion/04opchart.html

Moses Siregar III said...

Okay, so we got Joe turned onto PubIt. Now if we can just convince him to try everything at $3.99 for a month, we'll help make him a crap-ton of money.

Just playing, man :-D

Christy Pinheiro said...

So why in the hell should Rowling or any other mega rich bestselling author embrace new technology?

Actually, when I posted my original comment, I didn't mean for it to sound so snarky. Of course, Rowling is making tons of money. She doesn't NEED to do anything, except maybe sit back and enjoy her millions.

But the fact remains that her books are already out there as ebooks. They're everywhere. On torrent sites, on ioffer, on ebay (disguised). If anything, she should realize that 20% of the market is books for ereaders.

Let's put it this way: I just talked to my editor today. She finally bought a Kindle, and she admitted that she is downloading books like crazy. Impulse buying, like never before. Why ignore that market if you write fiction?

That's all I was really trying to say.

That, and I wish I had the money to take a really long vacation.

jtplayer said...

Re: "That, and I wish I had the money to take a really long vacation."
-------------

You and me both ;-)

KDJames said...

Damnit, Joe. Every time I think I've made up my mind to go the traditional route, you come along and hit me upside the head with another provocative blog post and I'm re-thinking things all over again. [grumble, grumble] Yes, I appreciate it. Bastard.

Amanda, you are awesome. You're also way too young to have such a firm grasp on what you want and how to go about it. Congratulations on your hard work and success!

As for 18-24 year old readers, please. Once people get beyond childhood, where reading serves a somewhat different purpose, most reading (of fiction) is enjoyed as an act of escapism. I have two kids who are in their early 20's. Yes, undoubtedly they're taking a break from the enforced literature of school days, but mostly they (and their friends) are too busy living life and loving it to bother with reading. They have no reason to escape from "real life."

Wait until they've been at a job long enough to get jaded or are balancing family vs career or have two small children who never nap at the same time or they encounter some tragedy or suffer a great loss -- that's the point at which fiction starts to have an appeal. Remember?

Personally, I hope they won't discover the need for/addiction to the escape of fiction for a very very long time. Just as I'm glad it will be there for them once they do. In whatever form.

lionmother said...

Being a newbie myself in the publishing business I went with an ebook publisher who I trusted and knew for years as a friend, MuseItUp Publishing. My YA novel is not paranormal, but it does deal with a subject that is relevant to today's teens and tweens. I am thrilled to be part of the ebook world and I applaud Amanda's success! I don't have any sales yet, because my novel is coming out in September. I'll let you know then, but I'm hoping the ebook market continues to spiral.

Excellent article about the other side of ebook publishing.

Mike Fook said...

Re: Jump in sales lately?

Yes. December is showing an increase of 22% over last month. But, it's always climbing anyway. Sales rose about 12% in November over October. I'm sure the December jump is just Christmas... and hoping it holds due to new readers getting Kindles and other ereaders.

Waiting for Joe to tell us about Google's new book store. Are you there? Are you killing it?

Zoe Winters said...

@Joe, (and someone may have already answered this, I haven't read all the new comments yet)...

You just go into your premium distro at Smashwords and click "opt out". I did it as soon as I heard PubIt was coming cause I know they take about 8 weeks to get it out. BUT I've also heard that you can upload direct to PubIt while your SW version is still up. I've heard they will merge the versions, but even if they don't, it shouldn't hurt you. And eventually the SW version would disappear.

Zoe Winters said...

@Kevin, no problem!

KevinMc said...

@Mike about Google eBooks... I did a quick Day 1 review here:
http://tinyurl.com/2fvnz99

And while I may have been a little overly harsh, I still stand by what I wrote.

Barring Google pouring many millions into the store over the next few months, Google eBooks is a dead stick. If it were a lesser known company starting a service as poor as this, they'd be dead on arrival without any chance of recovery. Google's reach and rep might let them survive, but it's going to be expensive for them and they are not going to be a serious player in the ebook market for a long time, if ever.

What went wrong?
- Worst UI and search/category systems of any major ebook retailer, including Kobo (who used to have that title).
- Buggy buttons on the UI that did nothing on release day, and were still not working right days later.
- Software errors on their device software; for instance, Nook users found that the Google-for-Nook software tried to delete all the epubs they had on their Nook when they installed it.
- Failure to sell .mobi format, even though 3/4 of all ebook readers are reading in Kindle software wasn't the brightest move, either.

But mostly, it's the site search that's the real issue. No way to search by rating, or recent publication, or price, or bestseller, or heck, pretty much anything else. No "also read" or recommendations.

It's so bare bones and user-unfriendly that I think most folks are going to take a look around, shrug, and go back to B&N or Amazon.

Not to mention that they are giving the lowest author/publisher share of any ebook retailer. No one else is still trying to get away with giving the author/publisher only 52.5%! That won't matter to readers, mind, but it does to us.

Selena Kitt said...

"I have two kids who are in their early 20's. Yes, undoubtedly they're taking a break from the enforced literature of school days, but mostly they (and their friends) are too busy living life and loving it to bother with reading. They have no reason to escape from "real life.""

---------

My kids (17 and 20) and my daughter's fiance (21) are all readers. The 20-yo just finished The Kite Runner (not for school). Reading doesn't just serve as a "means of escape" at all. My husband is a voracious reader and he reads fiction maybe only twice a year. There are LOTS of other reasons to read besides escapism. You don't have to have a sucky life to be a reader! :P

Jussi Keinonen said...

Hi,

A long-time Finnish reader here.

Sorry to repeat a question or a comment which must have been here before:

Probably everyone understands that sales quantities are affected by the fact that price leadership has been transferred from traditional publishers to DIY authors? Meaning that they sell their books at 2.99 or 0.99 etc. And the first ones to do this in a big scale succeed and get even more attention, like Joe and Amanda, or like Stephen King with his first e-book way back when.

Now that every author "gets published", what do you people guess the effect will have on all authors? What will happen to Joe and Amanda's sales, when a second-rate Joe or Amanda (and I mean only marginally not-as-good) starts selling their books for 0.29 or 0.19 or like the trend may even be now, for free?

The market is changing hugely, and for the first time in history it will be "fair" and "free". Everything available from everyone will be available to everyone, and pricing will be a real competition factor.

It's a very interesting situation for everyone. But I have a feeling the reasonable success of Joe and Amanda may be taken over by others, because the playing field will be even more level than it was two years ago.

Jude Hardin said...

I'm impressed with Amanda's numbers, and also with her writing. Good solid stuff.

Zoe Winters said...

@Kevin, Thanks for that review/info on Google Books. I'm pretty unimpressed with them and feel they are stretching themselves too thin.

@Jussi, True fans are pretty loyal. Books aren't widgets. I don't buy a book necessarily because it's cheap. I may "try" a book for that reason, but as recently as a couple of weeks ago I paid almost $9 for an ebook by an author I'm a fan of. My general cut-off point is $5 but I'll make an exception if I really love someone.

I also don't think we're going to have other Joes and Amandas that are somehow copying them but only marginally lesser writers. Derivative is derivative and the public smells a knock-off when they see it. It's why there is only ONE Da Vinci code despite all the knockoffs and only ONE Harry Potter despite all the knockoffs.

Competing on price isn't the place authors want to compete anyway. Even if there WERE someone "marginally lesser" than Joe and Amanda who was selling at 29 cents... most readers, having been exposed to a lot of 99 cent drek, are beginning to not trust super cheap reads. Many readers also stockpile free reads and never get around to actually reading them.

People put personal value into that which they had to pay a little bit more money for. Also, it's every author's responsibility to cultivate their fan base. Meaning... you interact with your readers and build good will with your fans. The core fan base really really likes you and won't dump you to save fifty cents.

I think an argument could be made for the wisdom of selling a bit higher because it takes you a little bit off the "this is cheap so it must be crap" radar. When readers go into a book expecting it to be crap... their reading experience will be worse, even if the book isn't actually bad.

Good and bad are highly subjective anyway, and a reader's mood or attitude going in can influence their experience.

I also think that any author who puts a lot of work into their fiction is going to want to be paid fairly for it. That includes those who try to undercut everyone. Eventually you just want to be paid a decent amount.

And places like Amazon and B&N will not "allow" books to be sold for under 99 cents by the author.

Anyway that's my 2 cents which would be perceived as more valuable if I was calling it my $25. :P

Jussi Keinonen said...

@Zoe: Thinking comments, thanks!

"Derivative is derivative and the public smells a knock-off when they see it."

I think so, too. Or hope. But on the other hand, where will the line be drawn? What's good price for value for X is not for Y.

"Many readers also stockpile free reads and never get around to actually reading them."

Exactly. But on the other hand they/we also stock 0.19, 0.99, 2.99, 5.74, 9.99 and even 79.00. Which is another interesting thing for the future: when will we have data for books that have been actually read, completely? Now that would be an interesting list! No more bestselling blah-blah lists, no more xxx,xxx shipped out. Books that have been, what's the word in English for it – consumed?

"I think an argument could be made for the wisdom of selling a bit higher because it takes you a little bit off the "this is cheap so it must be crap" radar."

Business-wise, not just for profit but for image! And this sets out the next scenario: how much do you/we value our favorite authors? I guess we'll see when the dust of the revolution settles at least for some minutes.

"Good and bad are highly subjective anyway"

Totally agree. I know the Finnish book culture business throughly, and most of our bestsellers. It's not just a genre thing, it's of subjective values. It's the same thing all over the world.

"And places like Amazon and B&N will not "allow" books to be sold for under 99 cents by the author."

Note: this will change as really free markets truly evolve. Big A and B&N naturally don't want that, because they'd not be getting their agency fee. But they can't stop it, just like Joe & Amanda can't stop someone selling their own stuff for less.

These were my two eurocents, not paying it and not getting money out of it. ;)

Jussi Keinonen said...

Pardon my Finnish language logic: "and most of our bestsellers" meant most of our bestselling authors.

KevinMc said...

@Jussi
I don't think we will see largescale free book markets evolve any time soon. It's expensive to collect and maintain those books. They simply *can't* get the "name" authors to put books there, so the majority of readers - looking for those names - just won't go. And the public still has a perception that free generally means worthless (i.e. it's free because it's so bad they had to GIVE it away to get it read), at least in the US.

We may see a shift down the road toward free ebooks that are supported by internal ads, though. I wouldn't be shocked by that, at all. I'm not sure how people will react to being forced to watch a 20 second video ad between each chapter or something like that, but it will be interesting. ;)

We're really already talking about the bottom rung for price, here. The 99 point is the low point allowed, so that's where all of the worst trash is landing, which is part of why pulling OUT of that is going to become even more important in the next year, I think. I don't think we're seeing a major negative reaction to the 2.99 price - yet - but I think we might down the road. At which point good authors will just bump up another buck.

Tim Frost said...

As a UK author I've been watching the UK Kindle bestsellers with the keenest interest. We indies are well represented both in the top 100, and in the top 20. I'm sure the readers are attracted not only by the prices (mostly $0.99 equivalent) but also by the covers and the blurbs. BUT they are then enjoying the books and leaving lots of reviews saying so. There has also been a ton of criticism of the UK big publishers who have fixed their Kindle prices at or over hardback versions. This is a tremendous gift for indie authors. I notice a number of US authors have not yet entered their author pages on the UK site which they must do separately to their US page or nothing shows. The UK is the world's second largest book market and the Kindle is taking off here right now, so don't miss out on your UK marketing, people!

Zoe Winters said...

@Jussi,

For me, the more I pay for a book the more likely I am to actually read it, because I invested more money in it. But that's just me. Others mileage may vary.

As for other people undercutting Joe and Amanda's prices, they can't do that without violating copyright law unless Joe and Amanda specifically published with someone who can adjust their prices. But a lot of people are on the agency model now with no discounting allowed. This even works for indies if they're distributing through Smashwords. Everyone retailer with a distro deal with SW has agreed to follow agency model and not discount indie books distributed through them.

Zoe Winters said...

@Kevin, I would MUCH rather pay for books than have advertising in them. Also, when advertisers get their grubby mitts on it, they control the content. i.e. then authors have to write in ways that don't piss off the advertiser and that's likely to REALLY hurt literature.

I also think if that does happen as readers find out how freaking annoying it is, many will go back to the option of paying for the book to get it without ads. Just like some people pay for certain website memberships without ads. People don't like ads. LOL.

I also think if ebooks came with ads it would push me more toward print books again, or away from reading altogether. When we consider issues like this we have to consider not only the issue of the economics, but also how the audience will react.

For example, many people will pirate TV shows to avoid ads when they could watch it free, legally on Hulu. The public has already spoken on how they feel about ads. It'll only increase piracy, IMO.

Zoe Winters said...

@Tim Frost There is a separate site for author pages in the UK? Could you direct me to where I need to go to sign up for that? I've already got my books on UK Kindle, but I don't have a UK author page like my US author page.

Thx!

(Also sorry for three posts in a row.)

Jussi Keinonen said...

@Zoe: Sorry for my possibly broken English.

"As for other people undercutting Joe and Amanda's prices, they can't do that without violating copyright law unless Joe and Amanda specifically published with someone who can adjust their prices."

Didn't mean that someone would sell Joe's or Amanda's copyrighted text. Just that someone, or just about anyone, might want to sell their own stuff for free or almost free. And what that could do to the other authors re: their income.

Jussi Keinonen said...

@KevinMc
Interesting points. Some things I'd like to comment on, although I'm guessing that the market is different and much more evolving Stateside:

"And the public still has a perception that free generally means worthless (i.e. it's free because it's so bad they had to GIVE it away to get it read), at least in the US."

I'm guessing that "free" could be 1) a marketing trick (try your first shot to see if you like it and get hooked) 2) like you said, worthless in money, but without the author him/herself thinking that it's worthless and possibly hundreds of others.

"We're really already talking about the bottom rung for price, here. The 99 point (etc.)"

In a free market, I would believe there are no bottom rungs or top ones. And the bottom will not end at free/zero, because someone else will be paying readers to read or at least download their writings to get traffic or ads. It will be quite like the click-here ads that we have on the web now. At the bottom rung.

At the top, it will have the same possibilities. I think I've read a book (dead tree, but with excellent carbon storage) of a 99 dollar hamburger. If I had more money, I'd want the thing upgraded to 1,000 USD. And it's just a starter.

Merrill Heath said...

I'm still looking for the "sweet spot" for my novellas. I think $.99 is good for short stories and $2.99 for novelettes, so $3.99 for an entertaining novella might be the going rate. It's not a full-lenght novel so it shouldn't cost in $5-6 range. But the $3.99 price point is reasonable. I'll have to test the market and see what works.

Zoe Winters said...

@Jussi

OH! I got it now. Thanks for the clarification. And no worries, your English is great!

Karly Kirkpatrick said...

@M. Louisa Locke...

Congrats on your success as well, those are great numbers. I just started selling last month, and I managed 93 total books, 45 of those were ebooks.

This month so far (at 10 days in) I've only sold a grand total of 5 ebooks. I'm also a complete unknown, have a blog and some friends on FB and Goodreads, but that doesn't seem to be translating into sales this month. I thought this month might be a little slow after the family and friend supporters picked up their copies, but we'll see. Is your novel romance? Mine is YA paranormal.

Karly
www.karlykirkpatrick.com

Karly Kirkpatrick said...

And Amanda...many many congrats! That's awesome!

bowerbird said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bowerbird said...

so amanda, congratulations on
your big success... it allows joe
to argue that you don't need to
be joe to sell as well as he sells.
he's been looking for that relief;
it's tough to be a poster-boy...

but amanda, here's my advice:
stop selling e-books for $.99...
you only get 40% at that price!

bump the price to what it takes
to get 70% instead. you will take
a sales hit, yes, a fairly big one,
but the difference in percentage
is costing you too much money...

unlike some of the people here,
who think with their prideful ego
instead of their economic brain,
i don't think there's any "magic"
in the $2.99 price -- _except_
it's where the major bookstores
shift to the bigger 70% "royalty".
which is all the magic you need.

so the only "reasonable excuse"
for doing $.99 now is to focus on
growth, which is a smart thing
to do in this relatively new pool
of e-book sales. however, you,
amanda, have already garnered
the fan-base to help you grow
into your future, so you should
stop shortchanging your royalty.

once the major bookstores learn
they can still make their money
paying a 70% "royalty" on $.99,
they'll begin offering that, and
then you can drop prices back.

but until then, go for the 70%...

even if it means a drop in sales
_and_ income in the short run,
because you'll power through it.

-bowerbird

p.s. and just so there is _no_
misrepresentation of this post
by proponents of higher prices,
the $.99 price _would_be_ the
best price if it gave 70% royalty,
because that's where the sales
_and_ the profit are maximized.
(the "sweet spot" might even be
$.49, but that ain't been tested
empirically, so we don't know.)

Tim Frost said...

@Zoe and other interested US Kindle authors:

To set up your UK author pages go to:

https://authorcentral.amazon.co.uk
and log in with your usual DTP ID.

You can price your UK books differently to on US site. We Brits like under £1 including VAT (set price to 86 pence UK to get total 99p). Just to repeat, there is a huge Christmas Kindle boom here in the old country, so don't miss out!

Zoe Winters said...

Thanks, Tim!

Megan Duncan said...

I am glad I found our blog, I have found it to be very informative and has given me a new perspective. I look forward to future posts. I have new hope to publish my books. I hope that someday an author as talented as yourself will enjoy my work as much as I do yours. I would love to pick your brain someday, but for now I will take this new path and see where it leads me. Wish me luck everyone!

Megan Duncan said...

@Karly - I would be happy to check out a fellow new-authors work. I will look for you on Amazon and follow you along your journey. I hope you do the same for me.

Raymund Hensley said...

Excellent post. The future looks promising for writers ^_^

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

I think Hocking tops you in sales because of her genre, not that she is a better writer. I've read you but not Hocking so I can't say if one is better than the other, but Ms. Hocking certainly operates in a commercial genre.