I haven't posted my sales numbers in a while, and was going to hold off on this until I got my latest royalty statements. But I've reached a milestone, and decided it is worth sharing.
As of today, Sept 21, 2010, I've sold 103,864 ebooks.
Here's how it breaks down:
My six Hyperion ebooks, from June 2004 until December 2009: 7865
Afraid from Grand Central, from May 2009 until December 2009: 13,973
Self-pubbed titles on Kobo from May 2010 until July 2010: 132
Self-pubbed titles on Smashwords since July 2009: 372
Self-pubbed titles on iPad from May 2010 until August 2010: 390
Self-pubbed titles on iTunes from Jan 2010 until July 2010: 508
Self-pubbed titles on Barnes & Noble from June 2010 until August 2010: 2212
Self pubbed titles on Amazon from April 2009 until Sept 20, 2010: 78,412
So what does all of this mean to the home viewer?
Currently, I'm selling an average of 7000 self-pubbed ebooks a month on Kindle. Those numbers are for 19 self-pubbed titles, though the top 6 account for more than 75% of my sales, roughly 5000 per month.
That means those six are averaging 833 sales, or $1700, per month, each. That equals $20,400 per year, per ebook, for my top sellers.
Those six are my top sellers because they're novels. My other 13 ebooks are novellas and short story collections, which don't sell as well.
Considering the average advance for a new novel is still $5,000, each of these ebook novels is quadrupling that, annually. And these numbers are rising, not falling.
Compare that to the ebook novels my print publishers are controlling. (These numbers are going to be low, because I haven't gotten my latest royalty statements for Jan-June 2010 yet.)
My best selling Hyperion ebook, Whiskey Sour, has sold 2631 ebooks since 2004. That's earned me about $2200, or $34 a month since it was released.
$34 a month per ebook is a far cry from the $1700 a month per ebook I'm making on my own.
Why are my self-pubbed ebooks earning more than Whiskey Sour, which remains my bestselling print title with over 80,000 books sold in various formats?
Because Hyperion has priced Whiskey Sour at $4.69 on Amazon, and I price my ebooks at $2.99.
For each $4.69 ebook they sell, I earn $1.17.
For each $2.99 ebook I sell, I earn $2.04.
So I'm basically losing money hand over fist because Hyperion is pricing my ebooks too high, and giving me too low a royalty rate.
Even the print sales (Whiskey Sour just went into a fifth printing) don't come close to making up the money I'm losing.
If we assume I could sell 833 copies per month of Whiskey Sour, I'd be earning $17,000 per year on it, rather than $5616 per year. (I'm guessing my numbers have gone up recently, and am estimating 400 Whiskey Sour sales per month.)
Let's multiply that times the six books Hyperion controls.
I'm estimating I currently earn $33,696 annually in ebook royalties on those six.
If I had the rights, I estimate I'd earn $102,000.
Do I want my books to go out of print?
Now allow me to address the other ebook venues, on a case-by-case basis.
Through Smashwords.com, I've sold 3106 ebooks, but the majority of these have been within the last three months or so.
Smashwords allows authors to sell ebooks through their site, and also supplies ebooks to Kobo, iPad, B&N, Sony, and Diesel. (I haven't gotten Sony or Diesel numbers yet.)
My Kobo numbers are low, because I opted out of Kobo. They discounted my ebooks, which isn't fair to other retailers. But I'm currently working on a deal with Kobo to have my ebooks back up very soon. Kobo supplies books to Borders.com, so I anticipate a bump this holiday season.
iPad has proven disappointing, and I blame the iBookstore interface, which is very user unfriendly. I assume it will get the kinks worked out eventually, but it is currently torture to navigate and browse the iBookstore. Still, almost 400 sales in just a few months is better than nothing.
Of course, compared Kindle sales, I'm selling 70 to 1 on Amazon over iPad.
Barnes and Noble fares a bit better. I'm averaging 663 ebooks per month, which is substantial. It's still about 10.5 to 1 compared to Kindle, but I'm pleased with it.
For iTunes, I use IndianNIC. The 508 sales figure is incomplete, and doesn't count the last 2 and a half months, because their user interface isn't the best. But they're now supplying ebooks to Android, so I'm hoping to get a piece of that growing market.
Actually, I'm hoping to get a piece of all the growing markets, and every market seems to be growing. By the end of the year, my self pubbed books will be on all the major ebook platforms, including:
Barnes & Noble
Do you know what that is? That's distribution. The very thing print publishers have had a lock on for a hundred years. Except now, authors control their own distribution.
By comparison, the ebook rights my print publishers control are missing from many of these key markets. On a daily basis I get emails from fans who want Whiskey Sour or Afraid for their device or in their country, but my publishers aren't exploiting these rights.
Am I angry?
And to add insult to injury, Hyperion recently packaged my six Jack Daniels ebooks together as a compendium. At first, I was thrilled with this, thinking they finally understood what I've been saying for months. Then they told me the price.
Even with Amazon's discount, that comes to $28.80, for ebooks that are several years old.
That's insane. And yet, a few poor souls are buying it, because it's still cheaper than buying the books separately.
I sent Hyperion several emails, explaining my reasoning for wanting this price lowered.
They haven't responded.
Now the anomaly here is Grand Central. They've sold 13,973 ebooks. Isn't that odd, compared to Hyperion?
Not when you realize that 10,253 of those ebooks were sold during the first month of Afraid's release, at the intro price of $1.99.
Consider that. In one month we sold 10,253 ebooks, just because it was cheap.
Now try to contemplate why publishers continue to charge $5 to $13 for ebooks.
Are you scratching your head like I am, wondering why they don't sell ebooks at lower prices?
Since that promo (and probably because of it), Afraid has been averaging around 465 ebook sales a month. Respectable, but still below my average, and only earning me $1.75 per ebook instead of $2.05.
But that's not a big deal, right?
Let's look at it over a three year period.
If I had the rights to Afraid and priced it at $2.99, I'd earn $51,000.
With Grand Central, pricing it at $6.99, I'll earn $29,295.
Do I want my rights back?
I wrote Afraid under the name Jack Kilborn, and received a $20,000 advance. It was released in the US, the UK, and Australia simultaneously. In nine months, combining the ebooks, trade paper, hardcover, and two paperback versions, Afraid sold 53,623 copies and earned $26,839.
On June 18, I self-published Endurance and Trapped, two more novels by Jack Kilborn. I released them in ebook format only, for $2.99 each.
In three months, Endurance and Trapped have each earned $11,424.
So, in other words, I'm earning $35,785 per year on Afraid, in all formats.
Endurance is on its way to earn $45,696 per year, in ebook only. So is Trapped.
And unlike Afraid, where I made the majority of my royalties on the print versions, which will sell fewer and fewer copies, Endurance and Trapped will continue to sell well for years as ebooks.
With Afraid, I went on tour and signed at 200 bookstores. I did a blog tour the month before, appearing on 100 blogs in 31 days. I worked my ass off promoting that book.
With Endurance and Trapped, I announced them on Kindleboards.com and did a few tweets on Twitter. That's it.
Does anyone else see this as a wake-up call?
When I began this ebook odyssey, back in April 2009, I had no idea the market would get so big so fast, or that I'd make so much money.
Since then, a lot of folks have done their best to dismiss what I've been preaching. They say I'm an outlier. An exception.
But I'm not an exception anymore.
New writers like Zoe Winters, Rex Kusler, Vicki Tyley, Karen McQuestion, John Rector, Aaron Patterson, B.V. Larson, Stacey Cochran, Amanda Hocking, D.B. Henson, Eric Christopherson, Debbi Mack, Karen Cantwell, Jonny Tangerine, Stephen Davison, Charles Shea, Joe Humphrey, Gary Hansen, M.H. Sargent, R.J. Keller, David McAfee, David Derrico, David Dalglish, Brendan Carroll, Alan Hutcheson, Paul Clayton, Imogen Rose, Tonya Plank, David H. Burton, Tina Folsom, Maria Rachel Hooley, Maria E. Schneider, Anna Murray, Ellen O'Connell, Edward C. Patterson, Caroyln Kephart, Lynda Hillburn, Robert Burton Robinson, Joseph Rhea, C.S. Marks, K.A. Thompson, J.R. Rain, John Pearson, Tonya Plank, Linda Welch, Ruth Francisco, Sibel Hodge, T.C. Beacham, Ricky Sides, Chance Valentine, Nancy C. Johnson, and many, many others are selling thousands of ebooks and getting on the bestseller lists. Many of them have even cracked the Top 100.
Then there are established pros like Robert W. Walker, Scott Nicholson, William Meikle, James Swain, Paul Levine, Selena Kitt, Richard S. Wheeler, Jon Merz, Simon Wood, F. Paul Wilson, Libby Fischer Hellman, Lee Goldberg, Casey Moreton, Raymond Benson, Blake Crouch, David Morrell, Mark Terry, Marcus Sakey, Ellen Fisher, Christine Merrill, Dean Wesley Smith, Kathryn Rusch, Joe Nassise, Gordon Ryan, Harry Shannon, and me, among others, who are releasing their backlists themselves, along with putting original works directly on Kindle.
I'm not the exception anymore. New writers and seasoned veterans are seeing the future and acting on it.
Publishers, however, are not.
Now allow me to draw some conclusions, make some predictions, and offer a bit of advice.
1. Think twice, and think again, before allowing anyone to buy your erights. I doubt I'll ever have another traditional print deal. I can earn more on my own, especially in the long run. With print losing ground to ebooks on a day-to-day basis, I'd hate to sign with a big house, and then 18 months from now they'll go bankrupt before releasing my book, taking my rights with them.
2. Amazon Kindle is where you want to be, but you should also check out Smashwords.com and IndiaNIC.com. That extra bit of income can turn out to be pretty substantial, and I expect some of these platforms to begin picking up speed.
3. Writing good books is essential. Having a bunch of them is a plus. The more ebooks you have available, the easier you'll be to find, the more you'll sell. By the end of this year, I'll have 28 ebooks available on Amazon. By the end of next year, I'll have at least 34.
4. I've been very lucky. I have a popular blog, and have gotten some good press. The scads of promotion I've done in the past certainly helps. But others are doing just as well, without my platform. And let me tell you, ebooks and Kindle are a much easier route than getting 500 rejections, mailing out 7000 letters to libraries, and visiting 1200 bookstores.
The ebook market hasn't even hit its stride yet. Here are some things I'm looking forward to in the upcoming months and years:
Selling my Kindle ebooks on international Amazon websites (with translations in German, French, Chinese, and Japanese)
Selling my ebooks on Kobo and Borders
Selling my ebooks on Android
Kindle being sold at Best Buy
Getting my numbers from Sony and Diesel
Releasing DRACULAS on October 19
Releasing SHAKEN on October 26
This ride has only just begun. I'll end 2010 having earned over $100k on my self-pubbed ebooks, and that's nothing compared to what I expect to make in 2011. And I'm doing it without touring, without promoting non-stop, without spending a lot of money, and without relying on anyone.
I don't expect the publishing industry to acknowledge this post. You won't read about my ebook sales in Publisher's Weekly. Agents won't mention it on their blogs. If you go to conferences and ask the editors you meet about J.A. Konrath and ebooks, you'll get blank stares, dismissals, or outright hostility.
I'll be at the Novels Inc. Conference in Florida, October 7-10, and that will be the last time I speak in public for at least a year. In the past few months I've turned down dozens of speaking engagements and interviews, and I will continue to turn them down. The amount of email I get from folks wanting ebook advice is daunting and impossible to wade through, so I'm not even bothering to try.
I spent 12 years trying to break into publishing, and 8 years doing everything I could to succeed. Now I'm finally able to write full time, which is what I've wanted to do all along. No more tours. No more appearances. No more accessibility to the entire world.
I'm not a motivational speaker. I'm not a teacher. I'm not a salesman. I'm not a dog and pony show. I'm not an outlier.
I'm a just a writer, dammit. And that's all I'm gonna be.
Don't you want to be just a writer, too?