Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March Kindle Sales Top $4200 and 5850 Ebooks

As of 11pm March 31, I made over $4200 on Kindle this month. That's over 5850 ebooks sold in just under four and a half weeks.

Here's the screen shot. It doesn't include the money earned on FLOATERS and SERIAL UNCUT, which are listed on Amazon by my co-writers Henry Perez and Blake Crouch.

I'm pretty surprised by this number. And it has lead me to some startling conclusions.

Back in October
, I looked at my ebook sales and said I'd never sell a book to a publisher for less than $30,000.

I've revised that a bit. I added a "1". My new number is $130,000.

This actually isn't as outrageous as it seems. Let me break it down.

Of my five best selling Kindle titles, four are original novels, and one (the novella TRUCK STOP) was written expressly for Kindle. Their average unit sales for this month were 880.

In June, Amazon is switching to the agency model, which means ebooks priced between $2.99 and $9.99 will earn the author a 70% royalty, minus a 6 cent delivery fee. Instead of making 70 cents per ebook sale like I'm currently doing, I can make $2.04 per sale.

If I put an original ebook novel on Kindle, going by my current average sales, I'd earn about $1800 a month on that title, or $21,600 per year.

That means, in six years, keeping my erights and steadily selling on Kindle alone, a single title could earn $129,600.

My first novel, Whiskey Sour, came out six years ago. During that time it has appeared in hardcover, and has had multiple editions in paperback. It has sold to ten countries. It's been an audiobook on cassette, CD, mp3, and download. It has also been an ebook, released by my publisher.

I've earned, with everything combined, around $50,000 on Whiskey Sour.

I think my royalties on Whiskey Sour are pretty good for a midlist author. The fact that it is still earning money six years later is rare, especially when I look at many of my peers who were also published in 2004 and are now out of print.

And yet, it's less than half of what I predict I can do releasing a Kindle-only title.

Of course, Kindle sales aren't a sure thing, even though mine have been steadily rising. Sales could begin to drop. The Kindle may become obsolete, like so many other technologies.

But my prediction for the future is I'll actually sell MORE ebooks than I expect, not less. I base these predictions on the trends I've seen in the industry, coupled with my own experiments. I've been blogging about Kindle for a year now, and my current numbers have exceeded my wildest expectations from back then.

And Kindle may be just the beginning.

My ebooks aren't up on Sony yet. They were just recently put up on Barnes and Noble. And naturally, I'll also sell my ebooks on the iPad. That's all extra income.

Plus, I believe the Kindle hasn't come close to critical mass yet. Over the next few years, the Kindle will get better, come down in price, and sell a lot more units.

Not only that, but I should still be able to exploit non-ebook rights. I could still sell print rights for novels, and audio rights, and foreign rights, and movie rights. I'm only talking about ebook sales here. And it makes no sense to give them to a publisher.

Let me repeat myself, because I've spoken with a lot of my peers who don't seem to grasp this point.

IT MAKES NO SENSE TO GIVE YOUR EBOOK RIGHTS TO A PUBLISHER.

Now there's always a chance my sales might drop if I raise my prices from $1.99 to $2.99. But I've been thinking about this a lot, and here is what I foresee:

1. The ebooks that my publishers own the rights to are priced between $4.70 and $9.99, and they're all doing well because readers are getting hooked on my $1.99 books and then buying the more expensive titles. I know this for two reasons. First, because my traditionally published ebooks didn't spike until I started getting popular with my self-published cheap ebooks. Second, because I've gotten dozens of emails from readers telling me that's what they did.

2. As an experiment, I raised one of my ebooks to $4.99. It made more money this month, even though it sold fewer copies, than last month at $1.99. And this is without the new agency royalty rate. Even if my sales dip, I'll still be more than doubling my current profits.

3. The difference between $1.99 and $2.99 isn't that big a deal, especially in comparison to what the major publishers are pricing at. Once the agency model takes hold, Big NY Publishing is going to sell ebooks at $12.99. I predict fewer sales for Big NY Authors, more for indie authors, even if we go up to $2.99.

4. If enough indie authors go up to $2.99, then it's the new bargain rate.

I've been part of the traditional publishing world for over a decade, and what's happening right now with ebooks is unprecedented. Not only do authors have a chance to directly reach a large pool of readers for the first time in history, but NY Publishing is so short-sighted they're making it easy for us to compete with them.

My ebook THE LIST has sold 12,000 copies in a year. At the agency rate, that's over $24k annually, assuming my numbers stay the same.

But I don't think they'll stay the same. I think my sales numbers will continue to go up, even when I raise the price to $2.99. Ereaders haven't hit their stride yet.

So if I were to take an original J.A. Konrath or Jack Kilborn novel and put it on Kindle, I believe $130,000 in six years is a modest prediction.

If I also take into account Sony, B&N, the iPad, and print, audio, and foreign rights, I can see $130,000 being just a starting point for the money one of my novels can earn.

Of course, that's my prediction for 2016. How about my predictions for 2010?

Let's say I put two original ebook novels on Kindle this year, and they sell on average as well as my top five best sellers.

That means I'll be selling 7560 ebooks per month. I'll err to the side of caution and say my sales drop off 25% because I'm raising the price to $2.99. That would mean I'd be selling 5670 ebooks a month. At $2.04 profit per download, that's still $11680 a month.

So between June 1 and December 31, I'm looking to earn $81,761 on Kindle alone. And that's being a pessimist.

If I take the optimist route, I'll assume my numbers won't drop off, they'll escalate, as they have in the past. Especially if I offer new, exclusive titles. Perhaps I'll sell 8000 ebooks per month. That would mean from June to December, I'd earn $114,240.

Being even more optimistic, I'll also put up another novella on Kindle, as well as the Newbie's Guide to Publishing ebook (over 360,000 words of writing advice.) And people will continue to buy Kindles. So let's really dream big and guesstimate I can eek out 9,000 sales a month.

That puts me at $128,520 for a seven month period. For just Kindle.

The shocking thing about this is that it isn't a pipe dream. It's entirely within the realm of possibility.

Is everyone reading this thinking "holy shit" just like I am?