Monday, April 19, 2010

You Can Become A Kindle Millionaire Part 17

This post was written by my friend, Lee Goldberg, taken from his terrific blog A Writer's Life. I asked him if I could repost it, because I think it speaks to something I've been preaching about for a while.

If I were you, I'd rename all the .357 Vigilante books getting rid of ".357" and "Vigilante" in their titles. The new covers should be generic--maybe a gun or some sort of weapon as the central image--but they should also tie together as a brand. And they should be done by an artist. Maybe a friend (you must have graphic artist friends) or maybe you can hold a contest on your blog. I'm convinced your covers and titles (which scream "Men's Action") are holding back sales of this fun series.

I'm not sure that changing the covers for .357 VIGILANTE (or the titles) will help. The books are what they are -- pulpy, men's action adventure novels from the 1980s. That is their appeal...and their drawback.

Give me $XYZ. I'll give it to my graphic artist to redo the covers for the Vigilante books. Let me retitle them and do the product descriptions, and I bet your sales go up at least 25% in a two month period (compared to your last two months of sales.) If they don't, I'll give you the $XYZ back, and you get the covers for free. That's how sure I am those books will sell with the right packaging.

You have a deal!

So I sat back and let Joe have his way with my books. Here's the original cover for .357 VIGILANTE:

And here is what he did with it:

Vigilante 1
Here is the original cover for .357 VIGILANTE #2: MAKE THEM PAY:

And here is what he did with it:

Vigilante 2
Here's the original cover I cobbled together for .357 VIGILANTE: DIE MR. JURY, an omnibus collection of all four .357 VIGILANTE books:

Face and logo9
Here's the revamp I did for it last month:

Die Mr Jury1l
And here's what Joe did:

Jury Series
It's only a little past mid-month, but already it's clear that he's won the bet and his repackaging is a success.

Last month, 357 VIGILANTE sold 59 copies or about 2 copies a day. This month, with the new title and cover, it has already sold 46 copies, or about 3 copies a day. It remains to be seen whether that pace of sales will continue for the rest of the month. But wait...

.357 VIGILANTE #2: MAKE THEM PAY sold 39 copies last month and now, with the new title and cover, it has already topped that by selling 43 copies. But wait...

.357 VIGILANTE #3: WHITE WASH sold 23 copies last month. So far this month, with the new title and cover, it has sold 27 copies. But wait...

.357 VIGILANTE #4: KILLSTORM sold 14 copies last month. But with the new title and cover, it has sold 48 copies. That's right, the sales have more than tripled and the month isn't over yet. But wait, it gets even better...

.357 VIGILANTE: DIE MR. JURY sold 20 copies last month and now, with the new title and cover, it has sold 47 copies...the sales have more than doubled and the month isn't over yet. What's really surprising about this bump is that the book is priced at $4.99, making it the most expensive of my previously published/out-of-print titles on the Kindle. They aren't buying it because it's cheaper than everything else out there...I believe they are doing it because they think they are getting a great deal, four books for the price of one, a point Joe hammered home on the new cover far more effectively (and clearly) than I did on the old ones.

Based on these results, I quickly reworked the covers of MY GUN HAS BULLETS, THREE WAYS TO DIE and BEYOND THE BEYOND (retitling it DEAD SPACE) to take advantage of what I learned from the bet and from Joe's example.

What did I learn?

1. Your covers should have a clear, simple, striking image that will still pop out when the cover is reduced to the size of a postage stamp.

2. Your covers need to have a consistent, branded look.

3. Don't be afraid to experiment, to rethink everything about how your book is presented: the title, the cover art, the categories its listed under, the way you describe it, the way you've priced it. Just because your book has been posted, that doesn't mean it's been carved in stone and can't be altered. You need to adapt to find your audience. In other words, you can't just post your book on the Kindle and leave it. Your book will continue to need attention and, if necessary, updating to stoke sales.


Joe sez: I'm happy Lee is selling more books, but I was pretty sure I was right about this. Even in the digital world, people still do judge books by their covers. Something that looks 1980s and cheesy has a limited appeal. But a subtler, professional cover, and a toned down product description (the original book descriptions had a lot of exclamation points and flashy adjectives and simply sounded pulpy) will broaden a title's appeal. As will the title itself. My mom isn't going to buy a book called .357 Vigilante: Killstorm! But she will buy a book called GUILTY.

Readers are customers. The secret to successful sales is: Know Your Customers.

It's also important to note that Lee's ebooks had some formatting issues, and I went through them and fixed a bunch. That's also key. People download the free sample, and if the paragraphs are all messed up, or the spacing looks off, they won't buy.

I read the .357 Vigilante books when I was younger, and enjoyed them before I'd ever met Lee. They're fun books, and deserve a wide readership. But Lee--who is a pretty savvy guy--wasn't presenting them correctly.

Would you serve fillet Mignon on a dirty paper plate? Of course not. The presentation is part of the appeal, and the sizzle sells the steak.

No sizzle=no sale.

The key is: Be Professional.

Hire a cover artist. Hire someone to format your books for Kindle if you can't do it yourself. Make sure the title and product description are targeting your audience. And, of course, make sure your book kicks ass.

BTW, if you need someone to format your manuscript for Kindle, I recommend Rob Siders. You can reach him at robsiders(at) He can even help if all you have is a paper copy, and if you're tech incompetent he'll also upload it to Kindle for you. Rob currently charges between $200 and $400 per manuscript, depending on how much work needs to be done. Could be less, if it's a quick job.

The cover artist who did Lee's new covers above is the same one who has done all of my Kindle covers. His name is Carl Graves, and he can be reached at cgdouble2(at) Carl currently charges between $300 and $800 a cover, depending on how much work needs to be done. Could be less, if it's a quick job.

If you contact these guys, tell them Joe sent you.