Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Amazon Numbers

So after a six month hiatus where I spent very little time experimenting with my sales, I got back on the horse and started playing around with KDP Select.

Some folks may remember last year, when a KDP free period for my ebook The List lead to me earning $100,000 in six weeks on Amazon.

I haven't been able to replicate that experience, but I have been pleased with the numbers I've gotten in the last few weeks due to KDPS.

In January, I made The List free for a five day period. Prior to that, it was ranked around #10,000. When I did the promotion, I managed to hit the Top 10 in Free, and gave away over 35,000 ebooks.

Since coming off the free promo, The List has sold 623 copies at $3.99, and had 742 borrows (I assume at $1.80). So it has made over $3,000 in 12 days, or about $250 a day. It is currently ranked at #1974, and is #39 in the Top 100 Police Procedural category.

I'm happy with this. After hearing lots of writers moaning about how KDP Select is no longer working, I'd argue it worked pretty well for me. A title that was off the bestseller lists is now on several of them, and selling steadily. While $3k isn't $100k, I've still paid my mortgage, health insurance, and several utilities in twelve days with only one title. Who could complain about that?

Emboldened by this modest success, I put another title in KDP Select, Afraid.

Afraid was ranked around #9000 before I began. I gave away about 16,000 copies, and have sold about 400 copies since it came off its promo. It is currently ranked around #7000.

I don't know why Afraid didn't do as well as The List, but I don't think the free period was a failure. The numbers after the free period more than made up for the five days it wasn't for sale, and it did improve my ranking and get me on the Occult Top 100, where it remains. It wasn't on a bestseller list prior to the giveaway. And of course, there is an intangible benefit to potentially gaining new readers via freebies who become fans and later buy my work. But this is impossible to measure.

Then I tried another title, under one of my pen names that I haven't copped to publicly. I gave away over 20,000 ebooks, and since January have made over $17,000.

This amuses me on several levels.

First, it puts an end to the nonsense that "Konrath sells because he's a name author and known" because this pen name is unknown to everyone.

Second, I don't consider this title one of my better works, but consumers talk with their wallets and apparently I'm not a very good judge of which of my books are worthy and which aren't.

Third, Holy Shit I Made $17k In A Few Weeks!

When I got my Jack Daniels titles back earlier this month, I put Bloody Mary up for a five day free period, ending yesterday. It hit #2 on the Top 100 Free list, and I gave away 42,000 copies. Currently is is ranked #693, and I've sold 150 copies and loaned 70 in a 15 hour period. So Bloody Mary is currently earning me $35 an hour.

One of the things I've always believed is that a rising tide raises all boats, and it is nice to see that confirmed by Bloody Mary. It's the second in the Jack Daniels series. While it was free, it buoyed the sales of the first in the series, Whiskey Sour, to the tune of 450 sales and 100 loans.

Whiskey Sour, which went live on Feb 4 and didn't get fully integrated into Amazon's website until the Feb 11, has earned me $1400 in nine days. It is currently ranked at #850.

Whiskey Sour, Bloody Mary, and the third in the series, Rusty Nail, are all on the Top 100 Police Procedural bestseller list, hanging there with The List. They're also on a few other bestseller lists.

As we all know, the more bestseller lists your title is on, the more exposure it receives, which results in more sales.

I also tried KDPS with my horror novel Endurance. It was ranked about #11,000. It is now at #1808 and on several bestseller lists after giving away 12,000 ebooks. It came off promo on Feb 11, and has sold about 60 copies since then. Not huge, but 30 a day at $2.70 profit per sale is $81 a day, and I can live with that.

Why is Endurance ranked better than Afraid when Afraid had more giveaways? I have no idea. Afraid seems to be selling a bit better than Endurance overall, but they are 4000 apart in ranking. If I had to guess, Afraid somehow missed getting the bounceback from the freebie period that my other titles got. For the uninitiated, the "bounceback" is the phenomenon that sometimes occurs when an ebook does well on the freebie bestseller lists, and when it is once again for sale it bounces over to the paid bestseller lists, usually lower down.

Sometimes bounceback works. Sometimes it doesn't. I don't know why.

But I do know that it was worthwhile pulling my ebooks from the other platforms to play around with KDPS, because I seem to be improving my sales and borrows by doing so.

I don't like the fact that Amazon demands ebooks in KDPS be exclusive. I think customers, and authors, would be better off if Amazon allowed KDPS ebooks to be nonexclusive. It would mean more ebooks in KDPS program, which is good for Amazon customers. It would also mean authors could earn more money, freeing up their time to write more books.

That said, having playing around with KDPS for the last five weeks, I've increased my Amazon sales by at least 50%, possibly more.

I'm also pleased at how my Jack Daniels books are doing, now that they are under my control. I released two trilogy compilations at $9.99, which have sold 184 copies. The six novels have had 1073 sales at $3.99 ($2.70 profit each) and 208 loans ($1.80 each).

So my Jack books have earned me $4500 in nine days, or $500 a day. And I believe they are just getting started.

Conclusions

The KDPS freebie bounceback still works, though not always, and not as effectively as it once did. I see a general pattern of: the more ebooks you giveaway, the more you sell when the giveaway has ended. But there are some instances where not a lot of giveaways helps boost sales tremendously, and some cases of lots of giveaways only resulting in a minor sales and ranking boost.

The goal, of course, is to keep experimenting. I know that experimenting is annoying when results can't be explained or repeated. But if you have a lot of titles, KDPS is certainly something you should play around with.

Of course, your mileage may vary. A lot. I now have over fifty titles, so taking a few off other platforms to experiment with KDPS doesn't hurt me much. I'm not going to go all in on KDPS because I don't like the exclusivity aspect. As a result, the majority of my ebooks are available on all platforms, and eventually I will get my Jack Daniels ebooks on Kobo and B&N and Sony and Apple and Smashwords. I don't like to exclude fans because they chose a different ereading device. I also personally know authors who have made a ton of money with these other etailers, and I did very well on Kobo in December. So I'll be back.

In my previous post, I tried to drive home the point that this is a business. You are the CEO of your own company, and your IPs are your assets. One of my goals is to maximize the profits these assets can generate. This is impossible to do by remaining static with your sales strategy. Besides utilizing all platforms and playing with KDPS, you can also be playing with prices (lowering and raising), playing with bundling (my Jack Daniels and Jack Kilborn three packs are doing well, and I'm about to release a dual ebook of Whiskey Sour and Desert Places with my frequent partner in crime Blake Crouch), playing with singles (if you have a short story collection, break that up into individual stories for 99 cents each), translating into other languages, selling foreign and audio rights, and selling to Amazon Publishing.

I like Amazon Publishing a lot. They keep raising the bar and getting smarter, and I like releasing a book or two annually with them because they can really promote a title and sell a ton of copies. Right now, A-Pub has five of my titles (Shaken, Stirred, Flee, Spree, Three) and I'd be willing to do more with them. One of the wonderful things about working with Amazon Publishing is how author-friendly they are. They're a joy to work with, and they actually listen. It's like having an equal business partner. I feel like I have some control there, and that puts me at ease.

That said, I'm a prolific writer and I can put out several books per year. I also like having complete control over my assets. A diverse portfolio is wise. Putting all your eggs in one basket is asking for trouble.

Control is something I don't talk about enough on this blog. After a decade of having very little control over my IPs, I now can run things they way I see fit. Not only will this earn me more money, but it has the wonderful side-effect of freeing my from all of my stress. I'm in the lucky position of having no one able to make me unhappy.

I got into this business in 2002. Now, for the first time, I'm master of my own destiny, captain of my own ship. The freedom to make my own decisions is, in many ways, more important to me than money.

As always, when you run your business, you need to set your own attainable goals. "Attainable" means they are within your power. Anything that requires the "yes" or "no" from someone else isn't a goal, it's a dream.

Finishing my next book by the end of March and getting it live is a goal.

Selling my series to Hollywood is a dream.

I have no dreams. Zero. I'm much happier being in control of my career, and having attainable goals. If money magically appeared at my doorstep in the form of a big deal, taking it would be contingent upon how little I had to be involved. I've played the game where someone else has power over me, and I didn't like it. I won't ever put myself in that position again.

As a self-published author, your freedom to make your own choices is an incomparable strength. Use that freedom to try different things, and learn from your failures and successes. A company is only as good as its CEO.

Be a good CEO.