Thursday, April 02, 2009

Ebook Blowout: Amazon Kindle Free Downloads

Anyone who follows my blog knows my feelings about ebooks. Namely, they're the future.

Grand Central, the publisher for Afraid, has taken this concept to heart, and my horror novel is available as downloads for the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader, for just $1.99.

Here are my current Amazon Kindle rankings: Sales Rank: #11 in Kindle Store

#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Fiction > Horror
#3 in Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Mystery & Thrillers > Thrillers > Suspense
#5 in Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Fiction > Genre Fiction

So, I'm pretty happy my publisher made this decision. There are a few hundred thousand books available on Kindle, so to be at #11 means that people are buying it.

But why are they buying it?

Is it because they've heard about it? Doubtful. I haven't had any advertising, done any touring, had a major marketing push.

So what are the ten books currently outselling me?

Four are Stephanie Meyer books--no big surprise there. Two are bibles. And while the bible is a popular book, the reason they're doing so well is they are free.

Also free is Lee Child's book, Persuader, and I'm tickled he's outselling both bibles. Persuader is one of his older titles, and giving it away for free is a smart way to hook new readers on his series.

The other three are the monster bestsellers The Shack, the Steve Harvey book, and the Mark R. Levin book. Like the Stephanie Meyer books, these are full price, between six dollars and ten dollars.

Rounding out the top 25, we find eight more free books, and six more full-priced bestsellers.

It's pretty easy to see why Afraid is on the Kindle bestseller list.

While it is not a print bestseller, and it is not free, the $1.99 price makes it an impulse purchase, like candy in the check-out line at the grocery store. If you just bought a $350 device to read books, naturally you want to fill the device up. But filling it up with $10 books will cost a fortune--very much like filling up an iPod using iTunes.

So Kindle owners are looking for free books, and cheap books. They're looking hard enough for them to spend $1.99 on a debut novel by an unknown author.

This works out perfect for Afraid by Jack Kilborn. I'm getting new readers, and if they like me, perhaps they'll seek out my other books, either in ebook form or in print.

Hyperion, the publisher of my Jack Daniels books, also gets it. They released the first in my series, Whiskey Sour, on Kindle for $3.96. How is that doing? Sales Rank: #757 in Kindle Store

#3 in Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Mystery & Thrillers > Police Procedurals
#14 in Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Mystery & Thrillers > Mystery > Women Sleuths
#36 in Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Mystery & Thrillers > Thrillers > Suspense

Not bad for a book that's been out for five years.

How are my other four regularly-priced Jack Daniels Kindle versions doing?

None of them are on the Kindle bestseller lists.

The Kindle bestseller lists, and the Amazon Shorts bestseller lists, are dominated by free books.

Both Amazon, and publishers, should be paying close attention to this. If they truly want to sell ebooks, cheap or free can get more downloads than full priced mega-bestsellers. For heaven's sake, in what crazy world can Afraid by Jack Kilborn outsell Stephen King, Dean Koontz, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, JK Rowling, Harlan Coben, Clive Cussler, and all the other giants?

Only in the world of lower prices.

Now imagine if all ebooks were cheap or free. Imagine how quickly they'd take over the print industry.

You won't have to imagine it for long. Because it's coming.

And for all of you Kindle and Sony Reader owners who surfed onto my blog on the basis of my header, visit, where I have six free ebooks, compatible with both devices, along with one for 99 cents.

Also something to consider: My free ebooks have been downloaded 17,568 times. My 99 cent book has been download 204 times.

If ebooks take over, like I think they will, freebies, pirated copies, and illegal downloads will decimate the print industry just like file sharing mp3s have decimated the CD industry.

You heard it here first.

More Afraid reviews:

Also, I'm guest posting at Naked Authors, to see if I get a better response than I did at The Outfit:


Anonymous said...

JA wrote:
"... My free ebooks have been downloaded 17,568 times. ..."

And they've been downloaded another 3400 times from my blog.

Tracy said...

I commented yesterday about the Kindle version, and voila! it is available. I just bought it and have to figure out how to transfer your other books by wire to my Kindle.

I do have an observation, though... I was anxious to get Afraid and looked for it at Borders yesterday. I was disappointed to see that they don't have it in the stores -- it is a special order. The ability to get it quickly and at a low cost in digital format will continue to make e-readers win -- especially for authors that are new (or under a different pen) and don't have last names like King or Patterson.

Now off to read Afraid! Thanks for all your blogging, Joe!

Paige Jeffrey said...

I disagree that print will ever disappear completely. Instead, I think ebooks will have the same effect on print as satellite radio did on local radio - bring it into focus and give it a specific purpose.

I love my books because I love the feel and smell of a good, well-loved book in my hands. And it's easier to borrow a book to a friend then it is to lend out something like a Kindle. However, I also tend to buy books that I've read and loved, or books by authors that I know and expect a good book from. It's rare that I'll pay full price for an author I've never considered before, unless there's something that really catches the eye. (Working in radio means a limited book budget!)

With the snowball that is "ebooks", I think print will find its definition in providing "collector's items", where people are willing to pay $30+ for a well-made, well-bound physical book of a story they already know and love. Libraries, even more than they already are, will be a matter of pride and home d├ęcor. Ebooks will be the medium that readers discover new authors, for the reasons you've mentioned already.

And Kindle needs to come to Canada already!

Melanie Lynne Hauser said...

Yes, but even though eBooks are growing - and I'm not complaining about that, mind you; I see the benefits of the Kindle, believe me (especially after a flood in my house resulted in me having to spend hours lugging all my books up two flights of stairs from the basement) - but. The latest figures released by the AAP show that they still only account for .5% of all book sales.

I'd say we'll still have print books around for a while, then.

Emilio said...

I agree with the main points in your article. But I don't agree with your price point. Once you give Amazon their cut and your distributor and publisher take their cut (in my case the distributor gets 50% of net for eBooks)you're looking at 50 cents per sale for the author.

Now if you're selling hundreds of thousands of copies like Stephen King, then that's not bad. But I would be willing to bet that even with the Amazon sales ranking that you have that you're Kindle sales are less than 20 a week. That's $10a week or $40 a month.

Having said that, you can't argue with your success from a marketing standpoint. A price point of $9.95 for an eBook is where I believe most eBooks will end up. This is similar to the price point of a full album download.

Emilio Corsetti

D. Robert Pease said...

All I can say is I wasn't sure this book would be something within my taste. I'm not a big horror fan. But at $1.99 I can afford to try it. So I did. And now I'm reading it on my iPhone.

angie said...

I "found" you through your guest post on "Because I Said So" a couple of weeks ago. I clicked through to your site and, after reading several pages, became interested enough to order "Whisky Sour." It arrived yesterday and I read the first paragraph and had to slam the book shut and put it away.

You see, I work full-time and take classes part-time, in addition to being a Mom to a couple of boys. I could tell from the first paragraph that this would be a book that I would be sucked into and the outside world would cease to exist. And I have a paper to write for my class, Mom-duties to attend to, and various other responsibilities.

I plan to find a quiet corner within the next couple of weeks so that I can lose myself in your story. Just thought you'd like to know, you have a new fan here. I will definitely be seeking out your other works as well! Thank you!

Boyd Morrison said...

Actually, I'm guessing Joe's sales are pretty good. I'm selling three thriller novels for the Kindle (all for less than $2), and all three of my books are ranked around 1000. Each of them sells about 20 copies a day, so to be in the top ten, I bet Joe is selling quite a few copies.

But you're right. Will anyone other than the Kings and Pattersons of the world ever be able to make a living selling ebooks?

Adrian said...

Piracy was not the demise of the CD, no matter what you hear from the RIAA.

Remember, with Kindle, you cannot buy books. You can only buy a license to a book. You don't own your copy of the book. You can't resell it. You cannot give it away. You cannot loan it. Amazon has the power to unilaterally change the terms of a license you've already purchased. For example, they can decide after-the-fact to enable or disable the text-to-speech feature of the Kindle 2 on a per-title basis.

Ebooks are the future, but the Kindle is not how I will be enjoying them.

JA Konrath said...

Hi Tracy--

Which Borders were you in? I've visited over a dozen, and they all had multiple copies.

JA Konrath said...

The latest figures released by the AAP show that they still only account for .5% of all book sales.

Thanks for chiming in, Mel.

That's how mp3s started too.

Once there's a cheap ebook reader that is embraced by the public like the iPod has been, watch what happens. iTunes now sells more music than WalMart...

JA Konrath said...

Emilio, if the price point stays at $9.99, more people will steal the downloads than buy them.

JA Konrath said...

Thanks, Diet Goddess. :)

JA Konrath said...

Piracy was not the demise of the CD, no matter what you hear from the RIAA.

mp3s were the demise of the CD. Piracy happened to be one way they were distributed, and it didn't hurt that they were free.

Brian Crawford said...

I have a similar vision for the future of publishing. Although I do hope print books don’t die completely before I get published – I think every aspiring author dreams of holding his physical book in his hands. Great to see your blog back to normal… I was feeling a little stressed out for you over the past month!

Jude Hardin said...

Have you seen the new "Slot Music" format, where albums are srored on a micro card slightly larger than a fingernail? My son bought a player for $20 yesterday and an album for $13.88.

To me, this seems like it might be a good format for books as well. You get to get out of the house and browse if you want to, you leave the store with a physical copy of something, and at home your library could be kept on dollhouse-sized bookshelves. You can loan the card of, say, Afraid, to a friend, but the card has a DRM or whatever that prevents it from being copied and distributed to thousands.

This would cut the price of new hardcovers in half. Plus, you don't need a PC/Mac for any of it.

Irish B said...

Hey JA,

You can't say that AFRAID hasn't been promoted or that the public hasn't heard of it.

Believe me, we've heard of it.:)

Samantha Clark said...

I agree with Paige that print books won't go away completely, at least for a very very long time. Technology can be quick to take off, but it takes a while to get everyone on board. As an example, this month, Panasonic is launching a dual Blu-ray/VHS player! They say people still have VHS tapes in their closet and they don't want to alienate them. They're right.

And I agree with Emilio that $9.95 is a good price for an ebook. Maybe even $4.95, but $1.99 seems low. There's something to be said for pricing books low now to get people on board -- and for introducing them to a new audience -- but your next book should be priced higer. You still want to maintain the value of the book.

I love free stuff like the next guy, but this is a business, and to keep going, a business has to make money. If I really like a book, I'll pay for it, in print or digitally. I do think digital should be priced lower than print, because you don't get to keep it in the same way as you can a print copy. It's very similar to DVDs vs. movie downloads. In that industry, they're figuring out the right price point for downloads to build the business but not erode DVD revenue. The publishing industry can learn a lot by looking at what the DVD industry is doing.

But all in all, the value of the book should still be maintained. You've written a story that will be the same whether it's in print or on a Kindle. The value of that story should be maintained, with a premium added for print because you truly own that copy (not to mention the added costs for the publisher).

Martin said...

Glad Afraid is doing so well, Joe. Looking forward to it.

Have to say I don't agree on the ebook taking over the print industry anytime soon. I think ebooks are definitely here to stay, and the market will (slowly) get bigger, but we're not talking VHS to CD here. The cores of major cities (once the recession is over) will no doubt do well with a device-oriented reading system. But in a few years when laser eye surgery is mandatory for 25 year olds who have fracked their eyes by staring at their little glowing orbs, things will level out. They always do.

ssas said...

Hey, man, you got a publisher's weekly mention today.

Stacey Cochran said...

Product, Price, Place, Promotion.

You've got each of these in a very lean, strong position, Joe, particularly with the Amazon Kindle version.

And the Kindle has had two years to develop its own user-base. Combined with that, I would argue your demo for AFRAID are the very kinds of readers who own Kindles.

With all the promotion you've done the past couple of years, with the build-up of anticipation on your blog and website for the release of AFRAID, with a price point ($1.99) that beats most NYT bestselling authors' Kindle versions of their books, and with the right demo for AFRAID being owners of Kindles, I am not surprised you're slaying with the Kindle version.

Way to go! I hope it continues to rock.

Trisha said...

Interesting post. It's good to see some figures from authors whose books are available on the Kindle.

There are certainly parallels between publishing and music, but I think part of the reason digital downloads hit the music industry so hard was that they sat twiddling their thumbs for at least a couple of years instead of figuring out a way to give the customers what they wanted, when those customers already had the tools (computers, CD burners) for piracy.

Now that iTunes and Amazon offer single-song and cheap album downloads, most people are not going to troll the net looking for some shady file-sharing site to buy music, because it is easy to find it in the format they prefer at a price that is acceptable -- and those who still pirate most of their music probably never paid for music before either.

It will be a while before e-readers are as widespread as iPods. If publishers use that time wisely, and make e-books available legally and at a fair price, maybe they won't end up in the same boat as the music industry.

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Bryan Gilmer said...

Joe, you are absolutely right.

After I heeded the online Kindle community's guidance and priced my crime thriller, Felonious Jazz,

at $1.99 on the Kindle Store, it shot up the rankings (to mingle with your many titles there).

Here are the most current numbers: Sales Rank: #155 in Kindle Store (of 280,000+ titles)
Popular in these categories:
#2 in Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Mystery & Thrillers > Mystery > Hard-Boiled
#13 in Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Mystery & Thrillers > Thrillers > Suspense
#14 in Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Literary Fiction

As Joe says, at no other time would such success have been possible for an unknown debut author. This will be a transformative change in the way books are sold. In stores, my book sells for $14.95. But a lot of that is production, transportation, inventory and waste (returned books) cost. Ebooks have no such costs, and so they must be cheaper.

I do plan to raise my price eventually -- but not above $5. I want to offer readers a compelling value proposition to get them to try my work.

Folks, I've been following Joe's blog, and no author understands more about selling books or works harder to sell their work than Joe. Good job, sir. (We've said hi at Bouchercons a couple of times, Joe, Chicago and B-more, but you may not remember).