Friday, February 08, 2013

How To Sell Ebooks

I just hit a milestone that is hard for me to grasp. As of January, I've sold over one million ebooks.

That's a lot of ebooks.

The question I get asked more than any other is: How can I make my ebooks sell more copies?

That's actually not the right question to ask. Because there is nothing you can do to make people buy your ebooks, except maybe hold them at gunpoint or kidnap their pets. 

This business isn't about what you have to sell. It is about what you have to offer. And luck plays a big part.

But I've found you can improve your odds. Here are some things I've done that have seemed helpful.


I can't overemphasize how important a good cover is. Hire a professional. And keep these things in mind:

1. At a glance, it should convey the type or genre of the book you've written.
2. It should be readable in grayscale.
3. It should be readable as a thumbnail.
4. Your name and the title should be large and clear.

There are other little tips that I recommend. Usually legacy book covers have a lot of writing on them, and that makes them subconsciously identifiable as professional. Taglines. Blurbs. "By the author of Whiskey Sour". That sort of thing. 

Your artist should know what vectors are, and the rule of three, and the importance of the color wheel, and all the other tricks used to make a cover pop.

If your sales are slow, consider getting a better cover.


Did you know you can add basic HTML to your book description on Kindle using Author Central? I didn't. But I do now, and I'm using it to make my ebook pages better. 

Once your cover gets a browser's attention, you need a good book description to reel them in. Read back jacket copy on some of your favorite mass market paperbacks to get a feel for it. You can also add blurbs, reviews, a bio, past books, and more.

Make sure there is plenty of white space. I don't like big, blocky paragraphs, and I assume others don't either. Use bold and italics when needed, but don't overuse them.


This should be a no-brainer, but every book you publish should be well-written. It should also be well-edited, and well-formatted.


You're going to have to experiment with this one. I have my novels priced at $3.99, my novellas and short story collections at $2.99, my trilogy sets at $9.99, and short stories at 99 cents.

Some of my peers sell for more, some for less. It's all about finding that sweet spot between unit sales and profit. I like my ebooks to be impulse buys, so I keep the prices low. Your results may vary.


The more books you publish, the greater your chances at finding readers. Besides new titles, you can also combine and split up titles to maximize your virtual shelf space.

I have box sets. I have single short stories that are also part of collections. I have joined forces with other authors, each of us putting a title into a set.

I also love to collaborate. That's an easy way to swap fans and increase readership


My take on Twitter and Facebook is similar to my take on advertising. Maybe it'll bring in some sales, but I haven't found it brings in enough to justify the time and money spent.

I have 10,000 followers on Twitter. They don't follow me because they are anxiously awaiting news of my next published book, They follow me because of what I have to offer. Namely, information.

Sure, some of them may buy my books. But this number is minuscule compared to the number of people who have never heard of me before, and discover me for the first time surfing an ebook retailer.

My ebook The List has sold over 200,000 copies. In December it was featured in Kobo and earned $3,000 that month. In the last week, this book has earned me $2500 on Amazon.

I self-pubbed The List in 2009. This is not a new book. I don't advertise it. I don't blog about it, or tweet, or send out email blasts.

It is being discovered by people on their own. Kobo certainly gave it a boost by featuring it, but it was luck Kobo decided to do so. The List just came off a 5 day free period on KDP Select, which no doubt got it some attention, but that was zero cost to me and didn't involve me tooting my own horn anywhere.

I've done things in the past to increase my sales. Blog tours. Sending out review copies. Visiting bookstores. And I saw some success doing these things. But that success pales next to simply being discovered by strangers who haven't heard of you before.

Kobo and Amazon make it easy to find ebooks you like. Their user interfaces are surprisingly smart. Instead of pimping the books you've got, spend time writing more books to publish, then let their algorithms do their thing.


It's no secret that about 90% of my sales have been on Amazon. But 10% haven't. And that 10% equals a lot of money when you've sold a million ebooks.

I like dealing with Amazon. They are so smart, so motivated, and do so much right. They're the one to beat, and their online store is the best in the world.

I also like dealing with Kobo. They're dedicated, hungry, and also extremely smart. If you haven't visited lately, you should. They're doing some really cool stuff, making the shopping experience easier, better, and more fun.

Smashwords continues to raise the bar, innovate, and blaze new trails. Coker is one of the smartest men in the biz. I've done well with Smashwords.

I'm just now uploading my titles to Apple, so I don't have anything to report yet. But I'm not a fan of their iBookstore. It's clunky, not fun to surf, and lacks the ease of Amazon and Kobo.

B&N's PubIt program is easy to use, but I'm not impressed with their online store. Still, I've made some good money there.

Createspace is very easy to use, their books look great, and they integrate into both Amazon and B&N with ease.

Overdrive caters to libraries, and I'm making some money there, but they aren't easy to upload to. In fact, I'm not even sure they have opened up their site to self-pub yet.

As a writer, you should be on as many of these platforms as possible. The more places your books are available, the better.

Competition is good, because it makes everyone try harder, forcing them to raise their game to higher levels.

As a result, I haven't gone all in with Amazon. I don't like the exclusivity aspect of KDP Select. Amazon customers would have more choices, and authors would make more money, if it wasn't exclusive.

I also don't like proprietary formats. I think Kindles should read epub, and Nooks and Kobo ereaders should read mobi files.


My feeling are mixed on this issue.

One one hand, my agent has been amazing selling the foreign rights of my self-pubbed ebooks. I'm in more countries than I'd ever been in during my legacy years.

On the other hand, every right you sell is one you can't exploit yourself.

I've translated two works into German myself, at significant cost (a novel can cost $4k or more), but I'm in the black and set to earn profits forever. Forever is a long time.

But even though I'm doing well with ebooks, I'm not prepared, nor do I have to contacts, to translate every one of my fifty IPs into ten languages. I also don't have the 8 million dollars that would cost.

So my current solution is to sell foreign rights, but limit the term to three or four years, then they revert. That way I can make easy money now, and have the option of do it myself later without losing those rights forever.


If you want foreign deals, audio deals, movie and TV deals, or even a legacy deal, you probably need an agent.

But I don't recommend searching for one until you've sold a lot of ebooks. 50,000 is a good number. And I said sell, not give away for free.


There isn't a single thing I'm saying here that you should automatically believe. Don't trust me, or any other so-called expert. Instead, try things out for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Many newbies reading this don't understand what it is like to have a publisher controlling your book. Many even welcome that opportunity.

I couldn't be happier having complete control over my intellectual property. Being able to change covers, prices, titles, content, quickly and efficiently, is invaluable to me. I can publish instantly, on all platforms, and reach more readers than publishers can.

This is a business. You need to adopt a businesslike attitude.

Businesslike doesn't mean tweeting every ten minutes, begging your 27 followers to buy your book.

Businesslike means looking at numbers and understanding what they mean. Hiring out for things you can't do yourself, or hiring out when your time becomes so valuable you need to. Learning how to repeat cause and effect.

I have an accountant, a financial planner, and an assistant. I hire out for cover art, formatting, and proof-reading. I use a close-knit group of bestselling authors as editors. I discuss strategies with peers, often try new things that fail, and am constantly trying to prepare for the future by watching trends, predicting what will happen next, and analyzing my own habits.

Self-awareness is something everyone claims to have, but few people do. If you want to sell ebooks, look at why you buy ebooks.

When was the last time you:
  • Bought an ebook you saw in a tweet?
  • Clicked on an Internet ad?
  • Followed a Facebook ad?
  • Bought an ebook because you got a postcard in the mail?
  • Bought an ebook because you got an email about one?
  • Read a free ebook?
If you can figure out why you buy what you buy, not just with ebooks, but with every single thing, you'll learn a lot. 

Use that knowledge. And if it works well, write about it so I can learn it too.


J.L. Murphey said...

Great post. Marketing in a nutshell.

chihuahuazero said...

Nice closing tip.

I find that unless I know the author, I don't buy books I find via tweets and ads--unless they're free. If I see a blog post that has a book being advertised in it, I sometimes add it to my watchlist if it sounds interesting.

Free ebooks, recommendations, and books from authors I like make up most of my list.

K. Allen Wood said...


If you're selling books on Kobo, how are you also offering the title for free on Amazon?

I thought in order to offer the book for free on Amazon it needed to exclusively sold through Amazon. That change?


Joshua James said...

Awesome post.

I have a problem, I just put a book up on Amazon, had a great cover done professionally, really happy with it... however, it's not showing on the product page, even though I uploaded it correctly and it says it's there.

It's been two days and no cover image. I don't want to start promoting it until the cover is there, because the cover is a major selling point... I emailed Amazon but so far have heard nothing.

Anyone else have this happen to them?

Anonymous said...

Joshua James, there should be a cover. Just email the KDP team. They are fantastic at sorting out problems. I mean, utterly amazing. There's really no better customer service team in the world. I could go on and on about the helpfulness I've received as a self-published author with Amazon...

Joshua James said...

I sent an email yesterday (though I went through the help section) and I am in the KDP program, but thus far have heard nothing back.

Alan Spade said...

I agree with Joshua, awesome post.

@K. Allen : I think Joe is switching exclusivity periods and multi-platform disponibility. For example, you won't find The list on Kobo for some time.

About Kobo : yes, they have improved. But on the sliding first page of the french Kobo site (adult novels), you can read : "adult litterature becomes free and invade your readers. The automn will be scorching".

Hey, guys, we are in winter !

Another think I dislike on the french Kobo website is that for the moment, they do not list ebooks by language in subgenres like SF & Fantasy : you'll find there ebooks in english, italian, french. A mess.

I've been asking them to change that for a year. So, not very happy there.

On the cooperation side, it seems to be a great way to improve your visibility. How do you do that, Joe ? Are the rights being divided by Amazon and Kobo between multiple authors of the same work, or does it work differently ?

Would you recommand for an author a minimum threshold to do cooperation, like 1000 ebooks sold, whith authors in the same field level ?

Publerati said...

I have done buying research in four separate industries and the stated reasons for purchase across all was around 40% "word of mouth. " My ebook business Publerati is trying to promote socially responsible reading where with every purchase a donation is made to global literacy efforts. Please take a look and let us know what you all think.

Jude Hardin said...

I don't like the exclusivity aspect of KDP Select. Amazon customers would have more choices, and authors would make more money, if it wasn't exclusive.

I also don't like proprietary formats. I think Kindles should read epub, and Nooks and Kobo ereaders should read mobi files.

I'm hoping Amazon's publishing imprints (Thomas and Mercer, 47 North, Montlake, etc.) will eventually allow their ebooks to be sold on other retail sites. Then maybe the bookstores will stop boycotting them as well. Seems like it would be good for Amazon, and for the authors who write for them.

I understand why they didn't allow this previously, but with e-reader sales leveling off in favor of tablets, it would seem to be the next logical step. T&M has been a joy to work with, but I want my ebooks to be available everywhere.

Shel said...

Congrats on the milestone, Joe!

And, I love your music videos in the earlier posts, too, because I do that all the time on my blog.
One by the Talking Heads was removed, but maybe it went a little too far. ;)

Robert Burton Robinson said...

Congratulations, Joe! And best wishes for your continued success!

Werner said...

Publisher's Weekly has an article about Amazon is to sell "used e-books". Can someone explain how you get used ebooks? Do they have torn covers and dog-eared pages?

Mike Fook said...

Amazon accounts for 78% of my sales. Smashwords distribution accounts for 15% and sales on my own sites totals 7%. So, outside of Amazon I'm making another 22%. It's a close call whether going exclusive with Amazon would bring me more sales or not, really I don't care in the least.

What matters is retaining your buyers contact info - being able to contact them by email, and being able to sell to them directly with no commission taken. Amazon doesn't just want exclusive, they don't even want you to sell your OWN BOOKS!

Joe, I haven't seen you mention Google Authorship as something to take part in. It is important. I know you're not up on the latest search engine stuff, and maybe you don't care, as the only search engine that you probably count as important is Amazon's within site search.

For those that cannot do well at Amazon, and that are looking for something else to come to the rescue - a serious effort at grabbing some Google love, might do the trick. Google Authorship is the next wave of Google search focus. Well, it's a big part anyway. Google+, and quality links to your author site can help a lot down the road and shouldn't be ignored.

I'll stop here because blogger doesn't allow long comments.

Cheers, and best of luck to everyone.


Kate Madison, YA author said...

Great summary of what you've been saying for years. Glad that you are posting again--I've missed you.

Congrats on the million. I'm raising my glass to you.


Rick Schworer said...

Loved it, thanks for the post.

As far as what propels me to buy an eBook, a FB page is huge. If i see that one of my friends liked something and it looks shiny, I checked it out. From there if it still looks shiny after I check out the FP page I like it, then buy it as soon as I can. Because I am like this I made a FB page for my eBook that's coming out in a few months.

I'm so conflicted on platforms! Everytime I've tied to dump KDP I find that I get more KDP borrows than sales everywhere else combined. My paperbacks are everywhere, of course, but so far the numbers don't seem to support my eBooks going everywhere.

Kobo looks great, I like the Kobo glow. I hope they get enough market share where it makes sense for me to utilize them.

Larry Kollar said...

Great stuff. I'm closing in on my first thousand sales (I'm pretty sure I'll hit it tonight or tomorrow), and this is excellent food for thought as I plot the path for the next 999,000 sales. ;-)

I hope, as I continue, that I'll start getting more non-Amazon sales. Right now, I could throw everything into KDP Select and not leave more than pocket change on the table, but I believe in diversification. Amazon won't be top dog forever, after all.

Kay Bratt said...

On one hand it's sad that while I was closing in on 'almost' 100,000 copies sold this year, you were hitting a million.

On the other hand...I'm not giving up on that big number. I'll hit it one day! Your post gave me renewed inspiration!

Bob said...

Congratulations-- that's a great milestone. Your advice is right on target.

As you know, since we met, I was in Chicago last weekend. I was on a panel where someone said "Self-publishing isn't rocket science" and I had to disagree. Yeah, it's easy just to throw a book up there, but to do well is very, very difficult and requires a lot of work.

All the best on making it to two million.

Adam Pepper said...

That's a lot of books. Congratulations Joe!

J. R. Tomlin said...


That is both impressive and inspiring. What a milestone!

Colom said...

Amazing stuff, Joe. Thank you for posting this kind of info.

Joe Moore said...

A million congrats, Joe.

Gary Jonas said...

Congratulations on the cool million. Here's hoping the million becomes plural soon. Write on!

Kriley said...

Congrats Joe! That is awesome. And thanks for the useful information. I will be publishing my first novel in the next few months and I owe a lot of that to your site.

matt harrison said...

Wow. This is really inspiring. Do you have any advice for non-fiction?

Donna said...

Great post. Lots of good info, as always.

Scott Gordon said...

Great post, Joe.

I noticed that you didn't mention anything about affiliate links, in your books or otherwise, to create additional revenue. Although I don't sell nearly as much as you, my affiliate sales net me an additional $100 or more each month. Since most retailers have some sort of affiliate program (even Smashwords), this could be a good long term business strategy.

Thanks again for sharing your wisdom,


Steven P. Marini said...

Great piece. I'm getting a better perspective about Twitter and Facebook. Thanks.

Jacqueline Howett said...

Congratulations on your million! May you make a million more!

Christopher David Petersen said...

What's a vector, and rule of three? Specifically, what importance in the color wheel are you talking about?

Spike said...

Congrats on your sales Joe. But mostly thanks for the information you share with the world.

Anonymous said...


How can you sell your book on Kobo if you're also in Amazon Select? Doesn't Amazon have an exclusivity clause for titles in Select?

Eva Hudson said...

Lovely to have you back in the blogosphere. Great consistent advice. You got me on the self-publishing pony back in 2011. And you've been walking the walk ever since. Thank you!

Katherine Owen said...

I agree with everything you said and also agree with Bob that self-publishing is as much science as it is art and truly a lot of hard work with eventual pay-off.

It is no small thing that you've sold a million eBooks. Congratulations on that phenomenal accomplishment!!! And, once again, thank you for sharing your infinite wisdom with all of us, Joe.

J Gordon Smith said...

Great news and glad to see you're back on the blog circuit.
When you suggest being on all distributor platforms you should comment relative to an author's baseline sales. If an author only sells ten books a month on Amazon, going everywhere is not cost effective to capture another three unit sales. The other sites you'll have to figure out how best to market there, you'll get obsessed with the reports, and need to do formatting and accounting and etc. Better to create more content.
My numbers are up just enough now to say I can add one more distributor for a new title and experiment, but I have fourteen products now.

Sarra Cannon said...

Huge congratulations Joe! You are such an inspiration. Thanks for always sharing so openly.

Sarra Cannon

Robert Bidinotto said...

Let me add my congratulations, Joe. You've earned it for that amazing achievement.

You've also earned my ongoing thanks. Your blog, and Robin Sullivan's, informed me about the option and opportunity of self-publishing ebooks, and gave me great how-to advice and inspiration. I took the leap, and it's changed my life.

I've sold only about 1/14th what you have. But that's with just one book. And more are on the way this year. My (trademark) hat is off to you.

Penelope said...

Great stuff from J.A. Konrath as usual! The amazing PDF that he gives away tells you most every thing you need to go to get started on your writing career.

Marie Force said...

Congrats Joe! I too recently hit the 1 million mark, and I agree with everything you've listed here. Thanks for all you've done to encourage other authors to take advantage of all these great opportunities.

Merrill Heath said...

Congrats, Joe! How long did it take to get to 1 million and how long do you think it will take you to get to 2 million?

Unknown said...

the point I dont need to believe you but i need to experiment i do that always in my books, my short stories

kboards said...

Amazing advice - practical and inspirational. Thank you, Joe, for showing indie authors what is possible and a roadmap to go in that direction!

Harvey / KindleBoards

Jill James said...

Joe, congrats. I love that all the things you mention are do-able for everyone. Thanks.

Terri Main said...

Excellent post. I'm just starting out, but have had a lot of good success because I'm putting out a lot of material, keeping it reasonably priced (I like what you say about impulse buying, and optimizing my Amazon page to make it easy for people to find my book in the search engines.

One tip I have (actually I've been writing a book about this and put it up on Kindle, but I'm not going to name it because I don't want this to be a plug) is to artfully pack your description, from the author and author bios with as many of the keywords people will search for using the Kindle search engine. Not to the point that it's unreadable, but enough so that your book shows up in the first few pages. I also cross promote. I do free giveaways with links in the back of the free books to all my other books. I see an uptick in sales every time I do a freebie.

RD Meyer said...

Great post, and very informative. I'll take it to heart.

Kiana Davenport said...





Stephen Prosapio said...


Congrats on the 1M mark, Joe. That's an amazing accomplishment. You've inspired many. Educated even more. Heck, you've pissed off some, but the rest of us are indebted to you. Rock on, bro!

Ryan Casey said...

Great post. Congratulations on the one million milestone - you're an inspiration to all of us who aim to make a living off of writing.

It's refreshing to see everything just laid out like this in such a concise form. The Internet has the unfortunate side-effect of information overload, so a concise guide like this post is refreshing to turn to when feeling bogged down by all the processes.

Roll on the next million!


Michael E. Walston said...

Congrats, Joe. Really. And major props for your continued generosity to the writing community.

Allie / Alexandra Marell said...
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Allie / Alexandra Marell said...
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Sariah Wilson said...

Congratulations on reaching one million sold!

You mentioned using HTML on Author Central - can you expand a little on what you meant and how it is helpful?

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Fantastic, Joe, and congrats. And thanks for sharing so much with the rest of the self-publishing community.

Bubbles said...

I follow your blog (silently, of course) but always find that you're writing just what I need to hear.

Thanks and I look forward to reading more!

Unknown said...

"Bought an ebook you saw in a tweet?"

I don't get Twitter. I bought one I saw recommended on G+ just a few days ago.

"Clicked on an Internet ad?"


"Followed a Facebook ad?"


"Bought an ebook because you got a postcard in the mail?"

Not only have I never done this, I've never gotten a postcard in the mail recommending an e-book.

"Bought an ebook because you got an email about one?"

Last week. However, I should clarify that this email was from a friend, recommending the book.

"Read a free ebook?"

I'm doing that now -- preparatory to writing a review of it. (Does that count?)

I wonder if your own experience here might be typical only of those who come to self-publishing after some degree of legacy publishing success, Joe. You already had a fan base and needed only to inform them of where to find your new offerings. Those who start without that advantage might need to do things a little differently in terms of building platform and visibility.

Kathryn Meyer Griffith said...

Me, too...what did you mean by putting HTML in/on Author Central? Also, if I'm self-published on Amazon Kindle Direct (exclusive) can I still put my 4 self-pubbed books on KOBO? What is KOBO? Author who just started self-publishing this year after 41 years with legacy publishers (good riddance!), Kathryn Meyer Griffith

Unknown said...

What a great milestone! Congrats!

I'm on my way, but will be hard to do with one book, so I'm hoping to release book 2 and a couple of shorts this year.

Besides the ebook, Audiobooks is another avenue. I also had my novel translated to Spanish, but I haven't made it into the black yet, but I have time.

Best of luck on your journey to 2 million.

Walter Knight said...

I mentor other authors, too. But sometimes it seems like only a perfect storm creates the literary success necessary.

Great writing, perfect timing, cover art, large body of work, drive, talented editor, co-authors, pricing, and persistant marketing all contribute. I've done all you've suggested. If feel very fortunate, even though my storm is a bit smaller. I've still created a life stype changing effort.

Unknown said...

WOW!!! You explain stuff really nicely and this topic and your blog is something for new writers.I must say your awesome.Helping people out is soemthing really nice and I like it. Ummm....Please could you see my blog too.Thank you :)

please do check it out!!!

Sally Clements said...

Congratulations on your first million sales, Joe!

Unknown said...

Joe- and please don't take this wrong, but when you said SELL you did mean that you got paid something for each copy?

I'm asking because there's more than a few people who are writers on the web who seem to confuse the words sell and the phrase 'give away' to pump up their numbers. I don't think that you do that; you did mention in this post one of your titles and made that clarification.

Yeah, I DO want you to make a ton of dough- as a newbie who's been following you since I started this in December, the amount of hope and great advice is priceless.


JA Konrath said...

Sell means sell. I've given away 600,000 ebooks on top of the million I've sold.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I truly appreciate your taking the time to post great information for your readers. It seems to me this is one of the many reasons you are such a success.

I found out the company I work for is seriously in debt. I have to really work on being an independent writer. Thank you for the guidance.

I wish you much continued success.

Christine L.Henderson said...

Can I get your permission to add this as a guest post on my blog? You've got excellent points, I like to share with my readers and link them back to your site for more updates. Here's the link to my blog if you'd like to review it before allowing its use.

MomEnDoter said...

Hi can we be a blogger friends? I love the way you write and inspire others so maybe you can be my friends at inspirational Christian quotes blog. good luck.

Amber Jaeger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Good for you...1 million books! That is huge huge huge! I couldn't imagine selling even half that amount!

Patrick R said...

Joe, was 1 million ebooks sold ever a main target/goal or are you just taking note of a happy milestone, a notch of the bedpost? Might not be solely about sales, but what are your next targets/goals/focus for your output? best regards, Pat

Howard Blast said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Hmm, interesting points in the Social Media and Advertising advice.

John said...


While you were working [=writing] your link - Joe's Ebook Store - does not seem to work.

Your Books & Ebooks age is '../freebies.htm'

Also, some of your books on Books & Ebooks do not have links to KOBO...

Just sayin.

John said...

Um - page, not age


Singlem said...

As a published Kindle author myself (Author Page:, I thought your article on self publishing ebooks was very useful and informative. I congratulate you on your publishing success.

JA Konrath said...

or are you just taking note of a happy milestone

Just a happy milestone. Took a little less than four years to reach it. Hope to get the next million quicker.

Joe's Ebook Store - does not seem to work.

Currently down for repairs and restructuring.

Can I get your permission to add this as a guest post on my blog?

People are always welcome to repost my blog posts, or sections from them. But please try to keep my words in context. I get quoted out of context a lot, and it misrepresents my meaning.

Wes Thomas said...

Hi Joe,
Enjoyed your post. Thanks for the advice. Most of us have no clue. However, you didn't mention anything about book trailers. Your thoughts?

JA Konrath said...

However, you didn't mention anything about book trailers. Your thoughts?

How many ebooks have you bought because you saw a trailer?

Unknown said...

Read your blog and bought Whiskey Sour for my Kindle from Amazon UK. Why? Your blog makes sense, you write in the first person, 'Jack', albeit the male version, is the main character in my novels. So it's not quite a random choice. All the best.

Jude Hardin said...

Most of the book trailers I've seen are pretty awful. If anything, they talked me OUT of buying the book. I think trailers could be an effective marketing tool if done right, but then they would be cost prohibitive, and there would still be the matter of getting them in front of book buyers. Better to channel your resources into a great cover and quality formatting and editing, IMO.

Unknown said...

Congrats, congrats, congrats. You deserve every bit of your success.

Quick word of caution on using Author Central for tweaking book descriptions: if you're going to bold, center, etc.., do it in your KDP back office with HTML code. If you do it in Author Central it overrides your KDP book description. Had this come up because I wanted to add an image (for tracking reasons) to my description. Made the mistake of using Author Central to change one of my book descriptions and now I can't touch that account. Apparently it's a funny Amazon thing. Again, just thought I should mention so you guys don't have the same thing happen to you.

All the best!

Alex7 said...

Thank you for your post, you're giving invaluable information here.

Greg from France

Steven P. Marini said...

I'm told that librarians like trailers because it allows them to get a get a sense of a book quickly before making a purchase decision for the library. Don't know. Just know that I have one but don't expect any potential readers to view it. Writers still need to reach mass media.

Anonymous said...


I have read your Blog for a while now which motivated me to write and self-publish my first e-book, so I thank you for that. I am now working on my second one.

I used the website designer you recommended as well as 52 novels. Both were fantastic. Can you recommend anyone for proof reading? Thanks in advance.....

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Congrats on reaching the big million! I don't always agree with many of your points in posts but this post was spot on advice.

Nikoo said...

Excellent post. Published thirty books with the big six and now doing the self publishing. I couldn't agree with you more on all fronts. People tend to ask the same questions of me. Now I can send them to this wonderful write up. Well put!

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Great info, Joe. Loved the 'why you buy' bullet list at the end. Does anyone click on Internet or Facebook ads? Why would you?

I've bought from a recommendation tweet, but never from a 'buy my book' tweet.

For those who have queried about using html in book descriptions, here is a link describing how to do it through Amazon's standard KDP

From my understanding, doing it through Author Central limits your word count, at least it used to, so it's best not to do it this way. They may have changed that now, though.

(Sorry, the link didn't work in my previous comment.)

Anonymous said...

Joe -

Thanks for the transparency and complete and utter lack of BS in your analysis.

Joe et al -

I will have 4 titles in a series ready to be released later this year. I figured I'd use Amanda Hocking's approach: release in rapid succession, offer the first for free or really cheap, etc. I like what I'm hearing about Kindle Select so I'm going to try it.

I'm wondering what the best way to do this is. Should I just make all 4 titles available on the same day, or should I stagger their release(s)? Should I do the 5 free days back to back to back to back, or should I stagger that for all the titles as well? The obvious answer is, I need to experiment but wanted to know if anyone had any experience/advice. Thanks in advance.

-Brian O

Unknown said...

KDP and Free events are still a trigger to give you a bump in the rankings leading to more sales. Not what they were a year ago and it's been diminishing since then.

It used to be enough to just make your book Free and promote it a little. Now to differentiate yourself from everyone else using Free, you need to fully leverage your friends and fans in social media, make use of Facebook groups that promote free and have a following and determine if any other email blasters/advertisers are worth the cost of advertising.

In my opinion, they are, but I'll better tell you after I come off of a 3 day Free promo where I've gone from almost no daily sales pre-promo to today, after 15 hours, I'm sitting at over 20,000 downloads #131 in Free Kindle and #3 in Police Procedurals.

We'll see what this means for sales this weekend and next week after two more days of Free promotion and downloads.

While people are discovering me through Free downloads, I need to go finish that second book for them to buy and enjoy later.

The game keeps changing, we just need to figure out how to play it.

Iulian said...

This was great. Thank you for sharing!


Tim said...

Joe, you spent years criss-crossing the country and appearing at hundreds of independent bookstores; that's how you originally made your name as an author, and it's what helped propel your sales when you first began selling through KDP.

Could it be that your sales are beginning to lag now, at least in part, because you have not made that same commitment to "in-person marketing"--meaning, meeting and interacting with your readers, rather than relying on Amazon's algorithms--over the past few years? And because you've turned your back on the very stores that propelled you to success in the first place?

The InformationProject said...

A very informative post. I've just taken the first steps in self-publishing after previously being with conventional publishers (Penguin for the first three books and then one book with Healing Arts Press). Although I'm finding the self-promotion that must necessarily go with self-publishing hard work, it's not nearly as much of a headache as working with a publisher . . . and it's so much more rewarding financially! I have not investigated much further than Amazon and Kindle but will follow your suggestions regarding other e-publishers. Thank you!
Ruth Lever Kidson

Michael Hart said...

Hey Joe!

Are you open to an interview about your thoughts on marketing books?

I was researching the best marketing methods for self publishers when I came across this post.

I'm finishing up my first "How To" book now and I think my 2nd title should be a "How To" for self publishers, all about the marketing and promotion end.

Interviewing those who have "been there, done that and got the shirt to prove it" could be a great read for other "wannabe" writers like myself.

Steph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie Philp said...

Congratulations on a wonderful landmark, Joe. Cheers to you. Great post and very helpful to people like me who are just about to ePublish. Some great tips and also the comments from others are very useful.

Jean Buschke said...

Congratulations on your 1,000,000!
I enjoyed your post...clear and to the point! Thanks for all the information...
Here's to the next 1,000,000!

Michaela said...

Thanks for your summary. Covered a lot!

Joseph said...

I know exactly why I buy a book. I search by author. Then decided to buy according to genre, cover and content as conveyed by the back cover. In that order.

If there's no author I'm really looking for, then it's just genre, cover and content.

Right now specificially that'd be Scifi, space battle, heroic struggle. It's sorta been those 3 criteria, with minimal variations, for about 30 years. :-)

Brandon said...

Honest and upfront. You can't ask for more than that. As a writer of speculative fiction, I'm just trying things out, but I have to stick with KDP for now I think to gain readers, but I have been trickling in some sales and seeing some high praise of my work. Not bad for the beginning, I think. Thanks for the honest posts, J.A. Best of luck to you with more publishing success!

Unknown said...

Thank you. There are a lot to consider before selling an eBook!!

As to selling eBooks itself, Payhip is easy to proceed. A free account connected to paypal is enough.

Larry Powell said...

Good sound advice. I'll take it.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your milestone. And thanks for this really insightful blog. I'm just looking into pricing at the moment, so it's very timely.

jackjack said...

Loved your take on using multiple platforms to sell your book, but I disagree with your point here:

"Instead of pimping the books you've got, spend time writing more books to publish, then let their algorithms do their thing."

Publishing a book, then crossing your fingers that it will sell sounds weak. There is nothing wrong with spreading word of how helpful your material is. If you can provide value to your niche, you will get more people interested in your book.

As a rule of thumb, care about your niche and you will get noticed.

Jack Reamer

Geriatric Gapper said...

Joe Konrath said...
"Sell means sell. I've given away 600,000 ebooks on top of the million I've sold."

All I can say is "Wow!"

Unknown said...

Having, at the grand old age of 49, just self-published my first book (I've always enjoyed writing poetry - never even imagined that I could write a novel), I'm now trying to market it & came across your blog and yes, I've fallen into every deep crevice that you've mentioned. Thank you for sharing your knowledge that I know I am going to come back to many times until I get the hang of it *sigh*. Am going to read through your previous blogs but maybe you can direct me - have you written anything on how to get reviews? (yes...too late I've realised how important these are too) Thank you again

rovlog said...

how to sell ebooks. Its really awesome blog. I like to read this. Thanks

Anika said...

Thank you very much.
It is a nice article and those questions at the bottom, everyone should ask themselves, are an eye-opener.
I just figured it out for myself some months ago..

Anonymous said...

I have thousands of ebooks in pdf format. Would anybody please give me some tips how I can market those ebooks? I appreciate your any suggestion. Thank you!

Nakabiri said...

Margaret said
informative I will use this knowledge with my son who is also writing his first book.


RobrertaLA said...

Thanks so much. This is great information. Hugz+++

Writers Camp said...

Hi, I am new to self publishing, literally six weeks since my paperback came out here in the UK. I uploaded it to Apple in July and I was under the impression that if I used Apple for epub then I couldn't then use any other platform and vice versa if I had chosen Amazon for epub. I would be really grateful for any advice you may be able to offer. Thank you very much. Jayne.

Unknown said...

Really nice post, Thanks for sharing useful and informative post.
Experion Institute, Inc.

Unknown said...

I have written over 65 books and most are on Kindle-I have tried Advertising but have only sold well in Japan.I have books on Ted Cruz-a biography and Trump verses Carson-two children's books-Pixie the Rabbit and ABC's- A picture book and hope to do as well as you-thank you for the informative article.Brenda Winters

Unknown said...

Enjoyed the article-I hope to do as well. Brenda Winters

Alabosi said...

there is a book store that is fast rising now and they sell online ebooks. I am trying to use their technique too, they have sold many copies of E-books worldwide . I love this book shop.

Sophie Dawson said...

Thank you for confirming my thoughts on Facebook and Twitter. I can't see the benefit. I've not sold even a tenth of what you have sold but hope to sell more than I am at this point.

I'm divided about exclusivity on Amazon. I sell the majority of books there so am going to start using KDP Select. As an avid reader using Kindle Unlimited that seems to me a no brainer. By putting my books into Select I'm finding more readers reading my books through the KUL that wouldn't try me by paying for the book. It hasn't generated reviews which I was hoping for but that may be remedied by posting a request within the book file right at the end of the novel rather than after the end stuff.

Thanks for a great article.

Unknown said...

A lot of great suggestions and fantastic advice. One millions ebooks sold is an awesome milestone. I have received a lot of tips, suggestions and advice from this fantastic book on 'Make Your Ebook Sell Like Crazy'. Check it out on this link:

Unknown said...

Congrats for nice collection of e-books. because book is the source for knowledge and it distributed one to other.
Oswaal Books

Unknown said...

Great post. Lots of good info, as always Sell Books Online

Unknown said...

This was great. Thank you for sharing!
Sell Books Online

Unknown said...

This is wonderful information that Mr. Konrath has put out about ebooks. Not many people can do the actions to make a Positive change occur in their lives and live Happier! I received some great information about how to look at selling my own ebook in a different aspect point of view. My favorite one is to treat it like a business, because you have to. It is a mindset that helps to see what you have to offer, on your products and services and if it's going to bring any solutions to help other people. Great blog post. Please keep making more helpful comments to appease your community of bloggers! Thank you!