Monday, April 05, 2010

Guest Post by Mark Terry

I've known Mark for years, and he frequently stops by this blog and offers his insights.

His new thriller, THE FALLEN, just came out. I encourage you all to buy it. His Derek Stillwater novels remind me a lot of Lee Child crossed with Tom Clancy.

If you have a Kindle, I also encourage you to buy DANCING IN THE DARK. Hopefully someone will after reading this blog post...

E-BOOKS AND ME by Mark Terry

Everyone here pretty much reads Joe’s successes with e-books with their mouths dropped open in astonishment. I mean that. He’s so far ahead of the curve on this that he’s out of sight.

Which also means he’s not typical.

Last summer, inspired by Joe’s adventures, I looked through my various projects, found one that I thought was good enough to be published, wasn’t being marketed by my agent, or wasn’t tied up contractually, and published DANCING IN THE DARK as an e-book. To say my sales are different than Joe’s is to compare a AAA battery to a lightning bolt. Here’s my sales to-date:

Invoice Date Amount Paid:

30-SEP-2009 3.12
16-OCT-2009 1.56
11-NOV-2009 1.56
21-DEC-2009 2.08
19-JAN-2010 1.56
23-FEB-2010 1.04

Yeah, man, I’m rocking. Let’s not spend that $10.92 all in one place.

But first, let’s discuss the possible reasons why my sales here are a bit sluggish (to say the least), particularly in comparison to Joe’s.

1. Joe’s better known than I am. Although my novels have been well-received critically, I’m typically published by independent presses with limited distribution. Sales have been modest. And in fact, although THE FALLEN, the third in the Derek Stillwater series, is officially released this week in hardcover, the two previous Derek Stillwater novels, THE DEVIL’S PITCHFORK and THE SERPENT’S KISS, are essentially out of print (except they will soon be available on Kindle, more about that later).

2. Although I think the cover of DANCING IN THE DARK is pretty good, my cover person laid it out in a 3-D fashion that I initially liked, but am now not so wild about, primarily because it’s different from everything else you see on Amazon. Needs to be changed.

3. I was in between books. As mentioned before, my first two Derek Stillwater novels are out of print. There was a lag of several years before I found another publisher and in that period, although I was very busy making a good living as a freelance writer, I wasn’t spending much time promoting books that were out of print. Now that I’m promoting THE FALLEN, I’m hearing an overall interest in my e-books, simply because readers are once again being made aware of me.

4. Someone recently pointed out to me that my Amazon page was a mess and not all my books were linked. I took care of that, but the fact is, there’s a lot of housekeeping involved in making sure that if someone hears your name, it’s then very easy for them to find your books—all of them (and publishers do not always make this easy, being far more interested in selling their books, rather than the author’s backlist from other publishers).

So what’s going on? Well, a couple things. As anyone who’s following the e-books and publishing, e-rights have becoming a big bouncing ball. Publishers want to hold onto all e-rights and give the author a very small percentage, anywhere from 10% to 25% for those rights. Authors, naturally, want to hold on to them or get significantly better percentages of e-rights. Publishers are dragging their heels, pushing for 25% or less, but agents are pushing for 50% to be standard. Meanwhile, Amazon, currently the biggest purveyor of e-books via the Kindle, is offering a 70% royalty if you publish them yourself. A “standard” agreement on this hasn’t really been worked out yet in the way that a “standard” agreement has been more or less worked out for mass market paperback, trade paperback, and hardcover royalty rates.

Here’s where my own experiences start getting rather across-the-board. First, in addition to the novels, I’m a freelance writer. I’m collaborating on a nonfiction book with a pair of doctors and due to a weird set of circumstances, I ended up negotiating the contract rather than our agent (very long story). One of the sticking points, for me anyway, was e-rights. I really felt that either the publisher needed to tell me what their plan was for an e-book version of the book and then negotiate a decent royalty (50%), or let us keep the e-rights. After much haggling we got a 25% royalty, but the rights will revert to us within 18 months of paper publication if the publisher doesn’t actually get around to doing an e-book version. (Book contracts are all about compromise. Was I happy about this? Well, it was a compromise. I could live with it).

When my former publisher and I parted ways, they returned all print rights to us for THE DEVIL’S PITCHFORK and THE SERPENT’S KISS, as well as ALL rights to THE FALLEN and the 4th Derek Stillwater novel, THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS (scheduled for September 2011 now). However, for Pitchfork and Serpent, the publisher hung on to all the foreign rights because they were still marketing them, AND, digital rights. Recently we got most of the foreign rights back and went after the e-rights. But the publisher wouldn’t release them because they have plans to publish an e-book version and had, in fact, already submitted the manuscripts to Amazon and B&N and others (without telling us). They aren’t, as far as I can tell, available yet, but should be soon.

My publisher for THE FALLEN did not have a negotiated right to the e-books … but apparently planned on publishing a Kindle version simultaneously with the hardcover version. Something I found out only recently. Again, you can hear the ball bouncing, so my agent and I are in discussions about exactly what our royalty rate is going to be for this.

And so it goes.

Will I be self-publishing more books? Oh, most definitely. The more I have around, the more synergy I’ll create, the more sales I’ll get. Besides, more and more people are buying e-readers—my iPad arrived Saturday!—so the market’s only going to grow. I plan to put forth a Kindle version of DIRTY DEEDS just as soon as I figure out where the original files are, see if I can find a floppy disk drive to attach to my computer, get cover art … oh, and find the original contract and see who actually has the e-rights. And I wrote a follow-up that never got picked up, and there are some other projects that I still like that won’t embarrass me to see them in print and available to readers.

The entire e-book world is exploding (while traditional publishing seems to be slowly imploding). No one really knows where it’s going to land in five or ten years, and so far most prognosticators have been totally full of crap. If everything goes to e-books and paper books become dinosaurs, I’m concerned about the millions of books currently sold at non-bookstore venues that are bought by millions of people who buy a book or two a year to take on vacation or for their business plane trip. Are they going to buy an e-reader when they don’t regularly read? Will they buy multi-media devices like the iPad, and if they do, will they buy books or just surf the web or watch a movie instead? Will they start selling e-reader individual books, a cheap, almost disposable one-shot, like you occasionally see (or saw, I haven’t seen one lately) for audiobooks? I don’t know. But writers should probably pay attention and get involved in it.


Joe's response.

Here's a case of a professional writer with a good book, good cover, good product description, and terrible sales. He's got a good website,, and has several previous books in print. He's selling DANCING IN THE DARK for a very reasonable $1.49.

So what do I think is going on? I have a few theories.

1. Mark hasn't mentioned that he's done any sort of marketing for this book. At the very least, he should visit and post about his book, join the community, and maybe politely ask Red Adept to read a copy to review. There are other Kindle forums, including on on Yahoo, that could also use an announcement.

2. Mark's been out of commission for a while, so who is going to go looking for this ebook? He didn't mention sending a newsletter to fans, though he has a mailing list. He has blogged about ebooks, but I'm not sure what kind of blog traffic he gets. One thing I'd do if I were Mark is trade links with more blogs, and offer to guest post on blogs (which he's doing here.)

3. Mark could consider cross-promoting with some of his author friends who have Kindle titles, trading chapter excerpts for inclusion in the back matter.

4. DANCING is buried on his website, and isn't listed in the sidebar on his blog. Compare that to my website and blog.

5. Does Mark have an Amazon plog? Is he using his social networks to the fullest (Twitter, Facebook, Crimespace, Goodreads, etc.)?

6. Weird as it sounds, $1.49 seems to be an awkward price. I don't see any other books priced like that. I'd either raise it to $1.99 or drop it to 99 cents.

7. The problem with the 3D book cover is its size. When it is viewed as a thumbnail, its too small to make out any real details.

8. I hope he went the Smashwords route and got this up on the iBooks for the iPad launch, and that it's also available on the Nook and Sony Reader.

Mark also seems to know that this is the very beginning of the ebook revolution, and there's a very long tail here. Okay, so the first six months were terrible. But the more he gets his name out there, the more he and others link to his books, the more Kindle books he posts, the easier he'll be to find.

With a little work, his sales will go up. Hell, they can't go down... :)


JA Konrath said...

Mark also brings up the "casual reader" question. What will happen to people who only read a few books a year?

I have a theory that's based on fact. When people get an ereader, they tend to read more. It's just so easy and convenient. That's one of the many wrong things John Sargent said, when he was talking about a non-growth book market.

As ereaders become better and cheaper, people will read more. A book, unlike a movie or a video game, is very easy to enjoy in short doses. Stuck in traffic. Waiting in line. On the treadmill. I see more people reading more books as the technology grows.

As for those "vacation only" readers, by the year 2012 every cell phone will be a smart phone, and the laptop/tablet hybrid will be the norm. All multi-tasking devices will have ereaders on them, and those casual reader will be able to get their two-book-a-year fix without investing in a Kindle.

But here's the thing. When they see how easy, convenient, and pleasant it is to use an ereader, I think some of them will begin to read more.

Mark Terry said...

A lot of good questions here, Joe. As I did mention, there's a fair amount of maintenance involved in marketing (any book, as you know) and some of the maintenance involved in the e-book marketing issue involves more fine-tuning and tweaking because you're acting as the publisher, as well.

As for the $1.49 price, I actually set it at $1.99 when it was published and Amazon dropped it via discount to $1.49. I really should tweak this endeavor more than I do.

I do some social networking, but not tons.

I'll check into Smashwords and some other things. Just add it to the other 15 items on my to-do list. :)

JA Konrath said...

If you just do one thing, I'd suggest posting on KindleBoards.

Summer said...

Well, Mark, your sales went up by at least one this morning. :)DANCING looks good and it's next on my TBR list.

Joe, as the wife of a marketing junkie, I love the way you "get it." Marketing isn't always about working harder - it's about working smarter. And you are surely an excellent example of that.

Mark Terry said...

Summer--thanks. Hope you enjoy it.

CJ West said...

Thanks for that post Mark. It takes courage to stand up and talk about how difficult it is to break into ebooks. I hope this is the first step to growing sales.

I have been following Joe and while my sales are steadily climbing by following his advice, I also have a long way to go to make a living from ebooks.

Thanks for all the great advice Joe! You are an inspiration.


Diana Celesky said...

Thanks, Mark, for your post and Joe, for your follow-up comments. Lots of educational information there on e-books.

Anonymous said...

Increase that sales count to 2.

I guess Joe's guest blogging suggestion is already making a difference. :)


Unknown said...

This was very informative, especially all the different rights for books.

As far as the casual reader, there are the Kindle applications for PC, iphones, etc. I have the Kindle app on my netbook. I'm far from a casual reader, but I take my netbook with me lots of places, so knowing I can get a book in an instant, is great. I can see casual readers getting the application, but not the actual e-reading devices like a Kindle or Nook.

Mark Terry said...

Like many things, making ebooks work requires a lot of time and hard work. My "day job" is writing, but not necessarily writing fiction, so to-date the e-books deal has taken something of a backburner to other more immediately lucrative tasks. Also, when I first published Dancing in the Dark I was just embarking on spinning off a subsidiary publishing business that sucked up most of my time and energy. Now that I'm focusing on fiction for a few months I'm turning back to seeing if I can improve the e-book sales and bring out other possible e-books.

But I don't think people should kid themselves about how much work is going to be required to make the e-book sales profitable.

Mark Terry said...

As mentioned in the piece, I got an iPad this weekend. The Apple iTunes iBookstore is nice, but surprisingly short on a number of books. Also, the first book we bought, for my son, by Jim Butcher, Furies of Calderon, was all messed up--we got the first page of every chapter, but not the entire book--and we haven't resolved that issue yet.

On the other hand, I downloaded the Kindle app for the iPad, and found to my delight that I could also download the books to that device that I had downloaded to my iPhone. Win-win.

JA Konrath said...

Mark, do me a small favor and search for Konrath ebooks on the iPad bookstore, and let me know what comes up...

Edward G. Talbot said...

Mark (and Joe), these kinds of real world nitty-gritty posts are invaluable. Not so much to illustrate how tough it is - if an author hasn't figured that out, he or she is probably just going to have to learn the hard way. But because of all the good questions and speculation about what to try and what has worked and what hasn't.

Too many posts (and I have been guilty of this myself) are about where the ebook market is going or how the Ipad will change everything. The fact is that no one knows. What we do know is that there is a rapidly growing market for ebooks and that it will inevitably change buying and reading behavior at least somewhat. Beyond that it's guesswork. As authors, we need to personalize it, as you and Joe have done, and go about the business of trying things and seeing what works.

Thomas Brookside said...

I feel like I'm being obnoxious in giving a "real" author advice, but since I have had some success selling for the Kindle I'm going to give my two cents:

Just looking at the cover and title, this looks like a book in the middle of a series.

I would only be interested in buying it if I had read other books in the series about this character.

That probably means that the total possible audience for the book is "Kindle Owners Who Have Read Earlier Books in the Series About This Character" which may be a small number.

Joe has a lot of recurring-character books on Kindle, but he has such a critical mass of them that they reinforce each other's sales. When you only have a single one up, a reader might look at that and say, "Gee, I don't want to buy a book about this character for my Kindle if I can't get the whole series."

If you have a general-interest mystery or thriller where you own the ebook rights, you should try selling that one. Or, if this book is secretly a stand-alone book and the recurring character elements are minimal or not required to enjoy the book, then you should change the cover art to make it look that way.

Mark Terry said...

One of the things I'm finding most invaluable and fascinating about Joe's approach--and publishing houses, TAKE NOTE!--is that Joe's experimenting until he finds something that works. He's adjusting the price and the cover art, he's cross-marketing, he's writing joint-projects with other authors. Paper books are so static--the cover's the cover & you're stuck with it. The prices are locked in, mostly.

Yeah, God knows it's time consuming (my biggest problem), but Joe's taking the time to experiment.

Mark Terry said...

Dancing In The Dark is essentially a standalone, although it was intended as the first in a series. And several readers have asked if I planned to write another one. Well, we'll see if my sales pick up. Maybe.

As for The Fallen, it's the third in a series and as of yet, as I wrote, the firs two are not available yet as e-books, although hopefully they will be soon.

Ellen Fisher said...

Interesting stuff, Mark; thanks for sharing. I agree with Joe that promoting yourself on the Amazon and Kindleboards forums might help. It doesn't take a lot-- in fact, an excess of promotion puts people off-- but a little bit is necessary, because there are so many books on Amazon that people just don't know your book is there unless you do a little promo.

I'm glad to hear you're going to try indie publishing again. Joe mentioned somewhere the "kudzu" effect, the fact that having lots of books out there somehow creates sales. My Kindle sales didn't go up till I got a second indie book out there. Some people do seem to do great with a single indie book, but I really think it helps to have more than one out there.

Best of luck!

Mark Terry said...

For the iPad via the iTunes Bookstore your listings are:
Disturb $1.99
Cherry Bomb $11.99
The List $1.99
Origin $1.99
Suckers $1.99
Floaters $1.99

Mark Terry said...

I completely agree that having more than one is helpful. That's true of brick-and-mortar stores, for that matter. Even online, it seems to be about real estate.

JA Konrath said...

$11.99 for a book that will be in paperback in two months. What is my publisher thinking?

Mark, do me a bigger favor and by one of my $1.99 ebooks and tell me if the formatting is okay. I'll paypal you the $2 to cover it. If your don likes Jim Butcher, I'd suggest Orign or The List.

And thanks for checking... :)

Bill Waldron said...

Looks interesting, Mark. Just bought a copy for my Kindle and look forward to reading it.

I wish you success!

-- Bill

Ellen Fisher said...

"$11.99 for a book that will be in paperback in two months. What is my publisher thinking?"

Right now they're all raising the prices to see what the e-market will bear. I suspect before long they'll realize the market won't bear these prices, and will lower them again. I doubt big pubs will ever come down to really low ebook prices, though as you said elsewhere, if one ever does, they'd likely corner the market on ebooks.

Anonymous said...

Your book looks great.

Remove the drop shadow (at the bottom of the cover graphic) and the white border around the book cover. It looks cool on the product page, but note how small it is when scaled down to thumbnail size (scroll down and compare it to "The List" (that one pops) at the bottom of your product page -- in the section that has "What do customers ultimately buy after viewing this item?"

Bigger is better, and colors that pop on the cover graphic will get you more clicks.

Anna Murray

Mark Terry said...

Joe--I'll do that & let you know. Later today.

Bwaldron--cool. Thanks! hope you enjoy!

Ellen--sort of Joe's Q to answer, but I doubt we'll ever see publishers themselves selling e-books for $1.99 simply because they feel it devalues the product. But I suspect they're going to be forced to do e-book pricing similar to paperback pricing, somewhere in the $5.99 to $9.99 price range.

Anna--if only I were a graphic designer :0

Edward G. Talbot said...

Joe -

Regarding the Ipad version, my guess is that if the epub version looks OK on say, Adobe Digital Editions, it will look Ok on Ipad. But I will be curious to hear the answer as well.

JA Konrath said...

Thanks, Mark. I just bought Dancing as a quid pro quo.

And when I did, I noticed you're now on a Kindle Bestseller list, and ranked pretty high up in the 5000s. This morning, you were in the 100,000s.

I also announced your book on the Kindle Boards.

Watch your stats go up. :)

CJ West said...


Sounds like you could do a post on the nuts and bolts of presentation in ebook format.

Or have you already done so?


JA Konrath said...

Sounds like you could do a post on the nuts and bolts of presentation in ebook format.

Maybe if I string enough bon mots together...

David H. Burton said...

I've taken your advice and seen great sales in just 5 weeks since my official release. Thanks Joe! He should go through your advice and take every word of it to heart.

David Wisehart said...

Wow, those numbers are really low. Repricing at $.99 might help.

As a comparison, I published my own novel at $.99 at the beginning of March. It went live on March 3.

I'm still waiting for the March report, but I checked my update at the end of March and my first-month-ever sales figures are $14.70 from 42 sales and no returns.

It's my first novel.

Interesting observation: most of my sales happen in the middle of the night (PST). Perhaps I'm doing better in Europe than America?

David Wisehart
Author of Devil's Lair

David H. Burton said...

I'm going to add to what I posted earlier because Joe's advice really is sound.

Let me start by saying:

I am a nobody. I have no name recognition. I have never been published before and I have no platform.

My book was rejected by 34 editors because they thought it was "too risky".

I put it out as an ebook only. There is no print version at the moment.

As of today, 5 weeks after release, I have sold 114 ebooks on Amazon at 1.99. It's not a lot, but it's a very good start, especially for someone who has to peddle it himself. I remain in the Top 25 atheism books and am often in the Top 10.

At Smashwords, through whom my book is now available on the iPad, this book is:
- in the Top 5 bestsellers overall
- the #1 fantasy
- the #2 thriller
- in the Top 10 highest rated books overall.

When I initially launched this book, I gave out over 1000 PDF copies of the book for free. (Don't be afraid to give it away - how else will people learn about you if you don't get your name out there?) As a result of those free books, others have come to purchase it because of what they've heard about the book. And I have now discovered that the big publishers were incorrect. There is, in fact, a market for my book.

Again, this is all in just over 5 weeks, from an unknown author. As the reviews come in and people continue to share what they enjoy about my book, I expect things to gradually increase. It will take time. And I will continue to write more novels in this series as well as others.

Use the networks that are available. There are eager readers out there and you just need to find a way to reach them. And be realistic in your expectations.

But Joe is dead on. Listen to his advice. It works.

Mark Terry said...

Wow, have lunch & go for a run & look what happens.

Joe, thanks. I'll probably pick up both of yours. I've been meaning to anyway for the iPhone, but I my reading on the iPhone has been limited. I'm pretty sure my son will like both of those, as will I.

David Burton,
I don't doubt it. Finding the time is a separate issue, but a real one.

David W,
Sure, rub it in. :) But really, I do notice, even more with e-books than paper books, that online promotion makes a huge difference because of the impulse-buy aspect of things. I can nag all I want with the paper books, but people have to remember me when they're at a computer or in a store (and then it actually has to be available in the store, no easy feat). I--and I'm sure Joe would agree--can't discount how important the ease and speed of buying an e-book when it catches your attention is a factor in sales.

JA Konrath said...

You're at #2700 ranking now, which is as good as many of my ebooks.

The goal is to keep the momentum going. Join Kindleboards and say hello. Link to the ebook on your homepage and blog sidebar. Do an Amazon blog. Send a newsletter. Lots of stuff you can do...

Alastair Mayer said...

This is fascinating, seeing Mark's numbers change with just a little tweaking. Be interesting to see how it holds up.

I've been following Joe's take on this for a while with great interest; I'm a fairly new author with some short fiction sales (see the June issue of Analog), and a couple of not-quite-ready-to-submit SF novels. I'm considering an experiment, going straight to ebook indie publishing with one and at the same time subbing the other to traditional publishers to see what happens.

Red Adept said...

Hi, this is Red Adept, author of Red Adept Reviews.

I just purchased "Dancing in the Dark" because I enjoyed the description. It's on my reading list, but I can't say when I will get to it. Would you believe my Kindle is actually FULL? LOL

Anyway, I don't read in order of purchase or receipt, so it could happen at any time.

Mr. Terry, if you could contact me at, I would appreciate it.


And, Mr. Konrath, thanks for the endorsement!

Mark Terry said...

Joe -- I bought The List & Origin from the iTunes bookstore & they both look good. (& yes I'm writing this on the iPad)

David Wisehart said...


I didn't mean to rub it in. No doubt your numbers will get a big boost today, and you can laugh about the early days of obscurity before you passed up Joe Konrath on the Kindle charts.

- David

Mark Terry said...

I tried to be as open and honest about this as I could, because I think it helps. So many authors work in secrecy, publishers, etc., about sales and royalties, etc., that we're all basing decisions on myths. I'm not sensitive about this with the e-books. I'm curious. There's no reason Dancing In The Dark shouldn't sell several hundred copies at the very least, and figuring out how to make that happen is worthwhile.

Hence: :)

Word Verification: lityr

Literature for illiterates

Debbi said...

I would definitely focus much more on marketing and I think pricing at $1.99 or $.99 is a good idea.



bowerbird said...


joe isn't getting good numbers
because he does the hard-sell.

he's getting those good numbers
because he has a solid fan-base.

and he got _most_ of his fan-base
not from his paper-book past, and
_certainly_ not self-promotion, but
primarily because of this very blog.

don't conflate self-promotion with
the creation and nurturing of fans.

advertising won't get you any fans.

but honest communication will...

so you need to have a blog, and
you need to maintain it regularly.
(3-4 posts a week will do the job.)

putting out a book once a year
-- or even two or three times --
won't keep the talk-lines open...
especially because a book tends
to be one-way communication.

so that won't nurture a fan-base.

but a blog will.

write about anything you want, but
"keep it real", as the kids say today,
so people can come to know you as
an honest human being they _like_,
someone they want to give money to.

those people will buy your books.

and if they enjoy 'em, they will then
tell their friends about them, which
will put you on the path joe is on...

but up until you have that fan-base,
you'll continue to fail to sell books.


JA Konrath said...

and he got _most_ of his fan-base
not from his paper-book past, and
_certainly_ not self-promotion, but
primarily because of this very blog.

Wow. Totally wrong. I doubt the vast majority of my fans even know I have a blog. And those that do know don't care about it. They care about reading for fun, not the publishing industry.

I got my fans by being widely distributed, traveling the country, and good word of mouth by readers and booksellers.

But I'm selling a lot of ebooks based on the strength of the covers, writing, and price, not because I have a fanbase. I'd bet the majority of the people who buy my Kindle ebooks have no idea who I am.

Mark Terry said...

Just FYI, I've had a blog for years and I post about 5 or 6 days a week.

Mark Terry said...

By the way, anyone who gets this far in the posts, I made it to #42 on one of the Kindle bestseller lists. How books sold yesterday alone got me onto that list?

21 (actually, 12 got me onto that list)

Debra L Martin said...

Congratulations on being a "best selling author" now. Keep up the good work and definitely check out publishing on Smashwords.

Joe, you are the best. I have followed your advice about ebooks and I'm happy to say that I've published 2 sci-fiction novels and 2 novellas with my co-author, Dave Small. We published them on Amazon [about 20 sales so far] and also on Smashwords which has a much broader distribution if you follow their style guide to the letter and get them into the premium catalog. All 4 of our pieces have made it into the premium catalog and the novels have been shipped to Apple already.

Our books are available here on Smashwords:

Rebecca said...

Joe Kontrath said: "I have a theory that's based on fact. When people get an ereader, they tend to read more."

I just wanted to bring this point up and say it's absolutely true! I bought an ereader earlier this year and am definitely reading more. My reading had dropped last year but as Joe mentions, the ereader makes reading fun again. I'm also reading more paper books.

Reading about the planning and marketing on this blog is priceless. I've got my first novel coming out in October 2011 and am thinking I might publish another novel as an ebook around the same time to create momentum. The advice here is invaluable and I thank both Joe and Mark for their generousity in sharing their experiences.

Stacey Cochran said...

I also have a couple of Kindle marketing secrets that will drive your book into the Top 200 overall in the Kindle store. Feel free to e-mail me if you you're interested.


Stacey Cochran
Bestselling author of The Colorado Sequence

JA Konrath said...

Mark, if you sell 10-20 books a day, you can sell over 5000 ebooks a year.

Four ebooks, selling 1700 a month at agency rates (priced at $2.99), is $40k per year.

bowerbird said...

mark said:
> I've had a blog for years
> and I post about
> 5 or 6 days a week.

do you have blog readers
who honestly like you?

and do you nurture a
conversation with 'em?

if so, why aren't they
purchasing your books?

if you don't know, and
you are communicating
with them, _ask_ them...


Mark Terry said...

Maybe I'm just naturally unlikable. :)

Or, perhaps, my readers don't own e-readers. (I only got one on Saturday).

bowerbird said...

joe said:
> I got my fans by
> being widely distributed,
> traveling the country, and
> good word of mouth
> by readers and booksellers.

i believe that that's how you
got your p-book fans, sure...

but most of them probably
haven't made the jump yet,
based purely on the statistics.

i'd bet that your e-book fans
are a largely different group.

to the extent that there _is_
some overlap, those would be
the _heavy_readers_, who are
now buying everything in sight,
but will eventually decide that
they need to curtail buying,
and they'll cut the expensive
books first, all else equal.

> I'm selling a lot of ebooks
> based on the strength of
> the covers,
> writing, and
> price,
> not because I
> have a fanbase.

ok, let's take those one by one...

> the covers

covers are a lot less important
with e-books than with p-books.
the whole shopping experience
is a completely different animal.

and to your fan-base, covers
will mean almost nothing at all.

> writing

axiomatic. if you don't deliver,
people won't continue buying.

but don't get over-confident...

right now, readers are buying
e-books because they're cheap.

they're buying more books than
they actually have time to read,
so we can't trust that buying to
impute any stamp of judgment.

maybe they just haven't learned
they don't enjoy your new work.
or the work publishers rejected.
it's entirely possible, you know...

> and price

agreed. that's why i'm surprised
you're going to raise your prices.

> not because I have a fanbase.

you definitely have a fan-base.

or you'd not be making as much
as you are already making. you
have repeat-buyers, i.e., fans.

and, as i said, your fan-base is
probably made up of new fans.

some of 'em were willing to take
a chance on you because they
learned some way you're already
an author published by a house.

but the one thing that gave you
your _biggest_ edge was you got
on "bestseller" lists quickly...

as terry just learned, it doesn't
take much to get on the lists...

but once you're on 'em, they're
self-perpetuating. more people
take a chance, especially if your
costs are low. and if you deliver,
with quality content they enjoy,
they'll go on to buy more books
from you. (most especially if the
others are "bestsellers" as well.)

that's why people find it hard to
grab the success you have had;
although it doesn't take much,
it is hard (and getting harder)
to get on the "bestseller" lists,
and harder still to _stay_ there.

> the majority of the people
> who buy my Kindle ebooks
> have no idea who I am.

contradicts what you said above.

and i'd give you the same advice
i gave terry: start talking with
your readers. make it personal.
get to know 'em as much as you
possibly can; let 'em know you.
the ability -- and _ease_ -- of
going direct to readers is _the_
gift of cyberspace. use it wisely!

and please note, joe, that i am
_not_ trying to argue with you.
i wish you the best of success.


Lynda Hilburn said...

I'm having fun with my books on Kindle. Two are print novels I kept the e-rights to, and one is a novella I originally sold to an epub (I have the e-rights now). I wish I had more books to sell on Kindle and Smashwords. During the last three weeks of March, I made just over $300 in Kindle sales and less than $100 at Smashwords. I was pleased with that and expect things will only get better. I hadn't done any promo for the e-versions besides talking about them on my blog and adding a line to my email signature. I'm excited about the idea of all those new readers and the resulting good word of mouth. I'm so grateful to Joe and his blog for all the excellent info.
Lynda Hilburn

JA Konrath said...

and i'd give you the same advice
i gave terry: start talking with
your readers. make it personal.

And exactly who are you to give advice?

No offense, but do you have experience to back up your beliefs? Do you really think it's possible to personally interact with tens of thousands of fans, and that's the reason bestselling authors are doing so well?

When an author reaches a certain level of popularity, they cease interacting with fans altogether. It hasn't seemed to hurt Patterson, Rowling, or King.

Ebook sales aren't based on the likability of the author. They aren't based on having a good website or blog. They certainly aren't based on personal interaction, because I've sold 36,000 ebooks and I've only personally interacted with a fraction of those buyers.

As I've said many times before, ebook sales are based on cover, writing, and price.

You're welcome to your opinions. But you're not using a foundation of logic to support your stance, or showing the experiments you've done to arrive at your conclusions. You're simply stating what you believe without facts or experience to back it up.

Again, no offense meant. But if you're offering advice, build a case so people can arrive at the same conclusions you have.

Anonymous said...

Bowerbird, I'm curious to know how you draw your conclusions. Do you work in the publishing industry, or are you independently publishing ebooks?

The reason I ask is that my own experience contradicts some of what you are saying, and I'm wondering what evidence you are using to base your conclusions.

As far as price goes, Konrath will likely find a model that attracts new readers while profiting from an established fan base. It's not all that difficult -- he could do it by maintaining a couple of entry books at the lower price (1.99) and then raising prices on subsequent books to 2.99 or higher (after they're hooked on his stories they'll pay more to get their Konrath fix). That's a simple example -- of course there are many models, but it doesn't take a Harvard MBA to figure it out.

The beauty of publishing independently is that the author has the freedom to change prices at any time to meet marketing goals such as attracting new readers, maximizing profit margin, etc.

I don't agree 100% with your ruminations on the Amazon category bestseller lists.It is in Amazon's best interest to have as many (variety) books as possible break into a best seller list . . . the system is set up to allow for what I call a flashover (a good book, priced aggressively, can go viral quickly). Maximizing profits and finding breakout books is in Amazon's best interest . . . if bestsellers are "discovered" on Amazon it raises their stock and increases sales . . . a buzz ensues, and readers flock to their site to find the next "American Idol." I can think of several books (independents) where this has played out recently, and Amazon profits from the excitement.

These Amazon lists (they exist in many categories and subcategories, to target many audiences and maximize sales effectiveness) ARE NOT the same as the NYT Bestseller List, which is pretty much driven by the industry, not by the readers. Turn it upside down, and you start to get the idea.

Anna M.

Unknown said...

Mark, I support any author that published good low cost books for the Kindle. I placed my order just now. Not sure how soon I will read it but I WILL read it. If it is good, you can expect more orders. Keep supporting ebooks, I no longer buy DTB so I need everthing on the Kindle


Rex Kusler said...

This Bowerbird is a pretty smart bird. But without credentials, why pay attention to him? He could just be some young kid with a bunch of newfangled ideas that haven't been tested. Like that Bill Gates character used to be.

Mark Terry said...

Mark at 6:05,
Thanks. Hope you enjoy.

Mikaela said...

Hurry up with Smashwords. I want to read it! :)

Also, if you make it a premium title, you can make it available through BN and Sony, not to mention iBooks.
No idea how you do it though.

JA Konrath said...

He could just be some young kid with a bunch of newfangled ideas that haven't been tested. Like that Bill Gates character used to be.

Ideas are a dime a dozen.

Showing the results that are a direct result of ideas is why people listen to Bill Gates.

Rex Kusler said...

Joe said : "Ideas are a dime a dozen."

Not for venture capitalists.

bowerbird said...

i've got nothing to sell.

and nothing to "prove".

i'm a nobody.

if you don't like what
i say, just don't listen.
or tell me i'm full of it.
laugh at me if you want.

and if you like it, fine,
i'm happy for you. :+)

i'm an old man.

older than bill gates.
(i just looked it up.)

don't have any money.

don't really need any.

certainly not enough
to go and get a job...

i am well-loved.

i'm a slacker.

i believe in creativity.
generosity. and love.

if i came close to
a venture capitalist,
i might spit on him.

or hey, i might not.

either way, i would
chuckle at him...


JA Konrath said...

Joe said : "Ideas are a dime a dozen."
Not for venture capitalists.

Venture capitalists don't invest in ideas. They invest in carefully thought-out business plans written by people who can show and prove results.

Rex Kusler said...


bowerbird said...

so joe, what's _your_ advice
for how mark can raise sales?

i saw you said mark should
post on the kindleboards,
but once he's done that
simple step, what's next?

you also said:
> Link to the ebook
> on your homepage
> and blog sidebar.

what good does that do
if nobody's coming to
your homepage or blog?

you also said:
> Do an Amazon blog.

so i advise doing a blog
and it's bad advice, but
you advise doing a blog
and now it's good advice?

you also said:
> Send a newsletter.

who do you send it to,
if you have no fan-base?


i can point to some authors
who are getting great sales,
but darned if i can say why.

well, usually it's clear, but it's
typically something _unique_.

for instance...

the 37signals crew sold _lots_
of copies of their first e-book,
which was nothing more than
a collection of their blog posts
(and thus available for _free_).

they have made over $500,000
(yes, over a half-million dollars)
selling 30,000+ of a $19 e-book.

(they have also sold print copies,
so the total take is even bigger.)

but they are unique in that they
are advocating a philosophy that
has a great amount of appeal...

i advised mark to gather fans,
but you pooh-poohed that, joe.

i'm not sure why you'd do that...
fans are responsive to a request.

heck, some of your fans here
went and bought mark's book,
largely because you asked them.

so i'd think gathering a fan-base
would be one way to raise sales.

it's not easy, no, but then neither
is crafting a popular philosophy.

so i'm wondering, joe.
what do _you_ advise?


J.A. Marlow said...

Mark, when I went to Amazon this morning, and even before signing in I saw your book "Dancing In The Dark" as the very first book under the area "More Items to Consider". Nice!

You should come back at the end of the month and let us know how all of this has helped the book. What were the final results in April? Did it affect the books available from your publisher?

In any case, congrats on hitting the front page of Amazon!

Katie H said...

I'm wondering if Mark noticed any increase in sales after this blog?

Maddy said...

There's so much talk about this trend in my critique group - I really need to get up to speed and stop hiding in a book sleeve.